The other day I received a daily update email that keeps me apprised of things in agriculture, natural resources, horticulture linking to various news articles and press releases. One of the articles was from the USDA APHIS about invasive insects and announcing that April is Invasive Species Awareness Month. APHIS also developed a website they have called Hungry Pests focusing on some of the invasive insect species that are causing the most harm to plants and trees or have the potential to. With a link readily available, who was I to not take a moment to click through and see what they had to offer.

They developed a character by the name of Vin Vasive who is in a series of 30 second YouTube videos clips about these invasive hungry pests including how they spread through firewood, fruits, clothing, gear and even internationally. I have to say Vin Vasive is one extremely creepy looking "invasive insect" – he kind of looks like a composite of a few of the hungry pests mentioned on their website.

You can visit the USDA APHIS website on Hungry Pests by visiting

Vin Vasive aside, the threat of invasive pests is real – take Emerald Ash Borer for example. It's a hungry pest munching its way through ash trees in 30 states in the US since 2002 when it was first discovered in Michigan. Ash is a native tree and was used extensively as a landscape and street tree replacement in the years since Dutch Elm Disease destroyed the American Elm population. With its popularity, it resulted in 20-40% of our urban forest being ash. This also causes financial burdens on communities to address how they want to deal with the ash trees in their communities – treatment, removal, or a combination of the two. Emerald Ash Borer is on track to cause billions of dollars in economic damages to the communities that it invades – including the cost of removal, treatment, and replacement.

Part of trying to manage and or limit invasive speices is understanding how those invasive species arrive here in the USA. Invasive species are not just insects, but include plants and diseases as well. Earlier this year, one of our Extension Forestry Specialists, presented a webinar called The Green Pathway to Invasion: Ornamental Invasive Plants. While this webinar didn't address insects or diseases, it does give an understanding of how plants, even ones brought over with landscaping use in mind, can go rouge and how and why they cause damage to the local ecosystem. If you are interested in view the recording of the webinar you can view it here:

Below is a list of additional resources for information on invasive species that might be of interest.

  • In 2015, some of the University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Team offered a two-part series called The Good, The Bad, & The Lovely Plants covering invasive plants, controls, native alternatives, and pollinators.
  • Part 1 – Invasive Species, Species of Concern, Controls:
  • Part 2 – Alternatives, Pollinators:
  • – a website dedicated to providing information and pictures of a variety of invasive species including insects, diseases, plants, as well as others.
  • – the national clearing house for Emerald Ash Borer including identification, controls, replanting suggestions, look-a-like insects, and maps showing where Emerald Ash Borer has been found to name a few.
  • National Invasive Species Center - This is housed within the USDA -

As devastating as invasive species can be, we all have the choice and chance to do our part in trying to help reduce their spread through a variety of means. If you have questions about invasive species, you can always contact your local Extension office for more information.

On a side note – this month, aside from being Invasive Species Awareness Month, on Friday April 27, 2018 is National Arbor Day. One way you can help with invasive insects is by increasing the diversity of our urban forest by planting a variety of tree species. If you want to learn more about proper tree planting and selection you can visit which is a resource developed by the International Society of Arboriculture.