Insects, Diseases, and Invasive Plants (RWU 4552)

Insects, Diseases, and Invasive Plants (SRS RWU 4552)

Thank you for visiting the website for our research unit, “Insects, Diseases, and Invasive Plants,” part of the Southern Research Station Unit, USDA, Forest Service.

Our mission is to provide the basic biological and ecological knowledge and innovative management strategies required for management and control of native and non-native insect pests (including bark beetles and termites), pathogens and invasive plants in changing forest ecosystems.

Selected News and Events

Field Guide to Invasive Plants in Southern Forests

Invasive Plants in Southern Forests Book Cover

October 21, 2015 on CompassLive

The U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station publication A Field Guide for the Identification of Invasive Plants in Southern Forests provides a comprehensive identification guide to nonnative trees, shrubs, vines, grasses, ferns and forbs currently invading forests and other natural areas of the southeastern United States.

The information included in the guide is also available as an application for iPhones, iPods, and iPads called Invasive Plants in Southern Forests.

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Emerald Ash Borer and its Enemy Wasps

Emerald ash borer larvae grow underneath the bark of trees. The serpentine galleries they leave behind eventually kill the tree by cutting off the flow of nutrients. Photo by James Marvin Phelps, courtesy of Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

September 22, 2015 on CompassLive

Since emerald ash borer was first detected in Michigan in 2002, the non-native invasive beetle has killed tens of millions of ash trees across the U.S., and continues to infest new regions.

Within its native range in Asia, emerald ash borer is attacked by a variety of predators including several species of parasitoid wasps that specialize on the beetle's eggs or larvae. Because these wasps are expected to play a role in maintaining low emerald ash borer populations in Asia, three species have been introduced into North America as biocontrol agents. "There is great interest in knowing how effective these introductions have been in reducing the population growth rates of emerald ash borer in North America," says U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) scientist Michael Ulyshen.

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Hoping for Empty Traps

Boy Scout William David helps SRS scientist Bud Mayfield prepare to hang traps for the walnut twig beetle along Glenn's Creek Greenway in Asheville, North Carolina. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

July 16, 2015 on CompassLive

Sometimes you may not really want to find what you're looking for.

On June 11, 6th grader William David, along with his brother Bennett and mother Sherry, met U.S. Forest Service researchers Bud Mayfield and Bryan Mudder to set out traps along a greenway near the Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) office in Asheville, North Carolina, for the walnut twig beetle (Pityophthorus juglandis).

Not yet found in Asheville, the walnut twig beetle, believed to be native to the U.S. Southwest, carries the fungus (Geosmimithis morbia) that causes thousand cankers disease. The fungus grows under the bark of walnut trees entered by the beetles and forms multiple small cankers that cut off the flow of nutrients, killing the tree in as little as three years.

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Bad News for the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid

Forest Service researchers involved in the first eastern U.S. release of the predator fly. From left to right: Kimberly Wallin, Forest Service Northern Research Station and University of Vermont, with Bud Mayfield and Bryan Mudder, Forest Service Southern Research Station. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

May 27, 2015 on CompassLive

Over the past decade, the hemlock woolly adelgid, a tiny insect, has ravaged the hemlocks of Southern Appalachia, causing widespread death of the trees that once lined mountain streams throughout the region. Efforts to keep hemlocks alive include releasing insects that feed on the hemlock woolly adelgid, including the Laricobius beetle featured in a recent article on CompassLive.

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Changing Forest Conditions and Pollinator Decline

Dense stands of young pine trees support few pollinators. Photo by Jim Hanula, U.S. Forest Service.

May 26, 2015 on CompassLive

“Forests in North America have changed rapidly during the past century,” says U.S. Forest Service scientist Jim Hanula. Before European settlement, forests were a mosaic of open pine and hardwood forests, prairies, and woodland savannas. Recent studies have found that forests with sun-filled openings and those with open canopies (where the branches from adjacent trees don’t touch or overlap) favor pollinators.

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New Mesoamerican Pine Beetle Described by SRS Scientist and Collaborators

Adult mesoamerican pine beetle removing resin and boring dust from the entrance of its gallery. Photo by Brian Sullivan.

April 14, 2015 on CompassLive

A newly-discovered species of tree-killing bark beetle, Dendroctonus mesoamericanus Armendáriz-Toledano and Sullivan, has been described in a paper just published online in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America by a group of researchers that includes a U.S. Forest Service scientist.

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Michael Ulyshen Receives U.S. Forest Service Early Career Scientist Award

Michael Ulyshen

February 25, 2015 on CompassLive

Michael Ulyshen is being recognized with the U.S. Forest Service Early Career Scientist Award, but his achievements in his short time with the Forest Service are remarkable. Ulyshen is a research entomologist with the Southern Research Station (SRS) Insects, Diseases, and Invasive Plants unit. During the last five years, he’s been first author on 34 peer-reviewed publications along with three book chapters, five invited presentations, and received international recognition.

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Making a Start on Restoring Hemlocks to the Southern Appalachians

Eastern hemlock seedlings planted on the Cold Mountain Game Lands for the first phase of restoration research. Photo by Bud Mayfield.

February 10, 2015 on CompassLive

This winter, in collaboration with the North Carolina State University (NCSU) Camcore program, the U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) established plots for the first phase of research to support restoring hemlocks to the forest stands in the southern Appalachians they’ve disappeared from.

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Guidelines for Regenerating Southern Pine Beetle Spots

December 4, 2014 on CompassLive

Guidelines for Regenerating Southern Pine Beetle Spots, a general technical report (GTR) by the Southern Research Station (SRS), provides detailed guidance for regenerating pines in areas within forest stands where trees have been killed by southern pine beetle.

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One-Two Punch Slows Down the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid

Scientists used a bucket truck to access tree crowns during sampling. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

November 18, 2014 on CompassLive

Can combining chemical and biological treatments save eastern hemlocks from the hemlock woolly adelgid?

Recently published research by U.S. Forest Service scientists and collaborators offers hope that integrated management can provide sustained protection for an iconic tree.

In an article published in the journal Forest Ecology and Management, Forest Service and university researchers provide findings based on data collected from a natural stand of hemlocks in Georgia that suggest chemical and biological control can be successfully integrated to help prolong hemlock health.

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Taking Termites into Account

A pair of protected and unprotected bolts in flooded (left) and unflooded (right) plots in northeastern Mississippi. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

November 12, 2014 on CompassLive

Every homeowner in the Southeast knows about termites and the damage they can do to a house, but most people don’t think about them as forest insects. Termites are saproxylic, meaning they depend on dead or dying wood for at least part of their life cycle, and they play a major role in recycling dead wood in the forest. Though there’s quite a bit known about termites in houses, much less is known about the role they play in forests.

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With Privet Gone, Native Plants and Pollinators Return

Researchers in a 40-year-old privet stand within the forest. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service.

July 15, 2014 on CompassLive

Forests infested with privet invoke a kind of despair in people attuned to the problem of invasive plants. Privet invades a forest quickly, sprawling across the understory and growing into thickets that crowd out native plants and change the very ecology of an area. Even if the woody shrub can be removed effectively, can a forest return to any semblance of its previous condition?

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Why is Cogongrass So Successful at Invading the South?

Cogongrass on the side of a forest road in the Talladega National Forest in Alabama. Photo by Rima Lucardi.

July 17, 2014 on CompassLive

In the South, many of our forests are crowded with invasive plants—English ivy, privet, oriental bittersweet and kudzu—to name just a few. These plants can often edge out the natives, reducing the diversity of understories and altering forests. Understanding how these plants arrived in the southeastern United States and adapted to thrive in local conditions can help with efforts to control and eradicate them.

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The 7th Annual Kent House Bug Day

Young participants at Bug Day pick out just the right bug tattoo. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

June 4, 2014 on CompassLive

“Yuck! You want me to eat what?!” turned into “Why, that’s pretty good! I can’t even tell that’s an insect,” at the recent Kent House Bug Day held in Alexandria, Louisiana.

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