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Chinese Privet, Arthropods, and Bees

Chinese privet in the understory
Chinese privet is not a good neighbor – most native plants and insects cannot live with it. However, it does not impact bees that fly higher above the ground. Photo by Mike Kay, Frederick County Forestry Board.

Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense) is one of the worst invasive plants in the South. It dominates the shrub layer and often becomes the only shrub underneath trees, especially in streamside areas.

But insects and spiders living in fallen leaves and leaf litter were not affected by a privet invasion in Georgia, as a recent study shows.

Community composition and abundance of insects, spiders, and other arthropods were the same in privet thickets and restored sites in Georgia.

USDA Forest Service research entomologist Michael Ulyshen contributed to the study, which was led by Bryana Bush of the University of Georgia. Ulyshen also led another study on privet and bees.

That study showed that bees are much less numerous near the ground in forests invaded by Chinese privet. Privet had little effect on bees active above the privet thicket, however.

Both studies re-visited research plots that were established in 2005 as a privet removal experiment. That project, led by Jim Hanula, now retired, showed that a thorough privet removal can last for at least five years. Hanula’s studies also show that as soon as privet infestations are eradicated, native plants and animals begin to return.

The arthropod study was published in Biological Invasions.

The pollinator study was published in Forest Science.

For more information, email Michael Ulyshen at michael.d.ulyshen@usda.gov.

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