Working with Invasives

     What comes to your mind when you hear the term invasive species? Alteration of habitats, reduction of biodiversity, destruction of native food sources? Well, the truth is, invasive species do all that and more. According to the National Park Service, “invasive species are nonnative organisms that cause harm to the environment, economy, or human health, and have serious impacts on native ecosystems. They disrupt ecological processes, threaten ecosystem integrity, degrade cultural resources, and potentially interfere with visitor experiences in parks.”

     As a future environmental scientist, I aim to create an understanding of the relationship between humans, animals, and nature. Furthermore, my goal is to help protect our resources and conserve our fauna and flora. 

     Being an intern at Monocacy National Battlefield (MONO) allows me to work on topics such as ecology and forestry. My project, specifically, focuses on the location of invasive species, including the Spotted Lanternfly (SLF), (Lycorma delicatula) and its preferred host, the Tree-of-heaven (TOH), (Ailanthus altissima). When studying invasive species, it is of great importance to know about their life cycles, as well as other characteristics that may help find ways of management.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    SLF nymph and adult stages                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Young Tree-of-heaven 

     The Tree-of-heaven, first introduced by gardeners in the 1700s, is an exotic plant in North America. Spotted Lanternfly, on the other hand, was first seen in 2014 in Berks, Pennsylvania. SLF feeds on a variety of plant and tree species and have the potential to become a major threat to the agriculture and forestry industries (NPS, 2021). Both species have a native range from Asia, and since their  introductions, they are known for their capacity to invade and damage the environment.


        Photo credit: National Park Service

     SLF has been documented in Frederick county, where MONO is, but not yet in the park. For that reason, I must investigate if the species is present or not and find viable ways to manage it. For my project I will utilize two different traps and set them in a variety of tree species, including the Tree-of-heaven. I will monitor them weekly and note any findings that I encounter. 

Circle trap installed by me on a Tree-of-heaven

     The best outcome for my project would be not to find any Spotted Lanternfly, but given that the pest is already in the county, its arrival in the park is just a matter of time. Nonetheless, with the help of the Resource Management team of MONO, I will develop a project baseline to ensure that the park is ready for when the Spotted Lanternfly makes its debut. 

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