Issue 14, August 13, 2010

Invasive Plant, Pest & Disease Awareness: Do you know the part you play in environmental defense?

The USDA has announced that August is officially 'Invasive Plant, Pest, and Disease Awareness Month' in an attempt to increase public awareness of these invasive organisms and the threats they pose. More and more invasive species are being discovered and the problems they pose are serious. Many of these invasives endanger the balance of ecological systems, cause economic loss, and pose public health hazards. For this reason the state and federal government has established a variety of programs to help identify and control these pests, but for complete success the awareness and participation of every day citizens are needed.

Invasive species are introduced to an area through a variety of ways, the most common being the transportation of goods and people between states or countries. Once introduced, these species often face little resistance to their spread and development. Another way invasives are introduced is through people planting invasive plants in their gardens. These plants can often spread outside your garden and become an infestation. Many of these species are of little threat in their native range but when placed in scenarios without limiting factors they do a lot of damage such as destroying crops, killing native organisms, or creating health hazards.

Even though many official programs have been established, sightings of invasives are often called in by private citizens. These instances of vigilance by citizens have played a vital role in identifying and controlling new infestations. To do your part, try and stay informed about invasive species in your area. In past issues of the Home, Yard, and Garden Pest newsletter, we've highlighted invasive species that are a threat to Illinois. Take a look back to see what these insect pests may look like or where they may be lurking. Also, make responsible gardening decisions and choose native plants for your garden. A new factsheet from the United States Department of Agriculture discusses further ways to fight these invaders. Staying informed and acting responsibly will help you play an integral role in protecting your home and state from invasive plants, insects, and diseases.--Irenka Carney

Kelly Estes

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