Automobiles are finally on their way to living up to
The Europeans weren’t the only things to invade America. These nine species, by accident or otherwise, stepped from their natural habitat to America, liked the view and decided to stay.
- Zebra Mussels
This small, striped mussel is originally native to the lakes of Southern Russia. This is probably why, when introduced to American freshwater, it decided all the native species were wimps and decided to take this as its new home. Not only do they disrupt ecosystems in the usual invasive species way, but they also cause damage to boats, docks, etc.
- Asian Carp
At first glance, the Asian Carp looks like a dopey cousin of other, domestic fish. However, when startled or stressed, it turns into a freaking flying fish. They have been known to leap bodily out of the water, sometimes hard enough to knock fishermen out of their boats.
So, first they outcompete the native species and eat all of their food, then they try to take this fight out of the water. They are becoming bolder.
- Emerald Ash Borer
This (of course) Asian beetle eats and kills ash trees. The green tide first crossed from Asia to Michigan in some packaging material, before swooping south. Since the natural defenses against them (like predators, resistant trees, etc) are not present in the US, once an area is infested, all ash trees in the area are expected to die in the following 10 years.
- Red Imported Fire Ant
Originally from central South America, the Red Imported Fire Ant is what many picture when someone says “fire ant.” They are highly aggressive, attack as a teeming mob and have a persistently painful sting, which can cause white pustules the day after the sting. Beyond their sting, though, RIFAs create problems with their rapid mound-building. It is not uncommon for a RIFA nest to appear in a suburban yard or farm field seemingly overnight, which triggers the swarming attack if disturbed.
Thankfully, the snakehead, beside having a face that looks somewhat like a snake’s, is very little like a snake. Unthankfully, it shares two major similarities – first, they are both predators; second, they both can breathe air.
Snakeheads are semi-amphibious. Since they can breathe air somewhat, they can travel over land between bodies of water, sometimes traveling up to a quarter of a mile between pools. So long as the fish remains wet, it can survive up to four days on land. Also, they spawn like crazy – they lay eggs up to five times per year, releasing around 15,000 eggs in each laying. This has led to a label from National Geographic, who called the snakehead “Fishzilla,” and a ban in many states on possessing a live snakehead.
- European Starlings
Sometimes invasive species are introduced by accident. Sometimes they are introduced to try to solve a problem. However, sometimes an invasive species is introduced on a stupid whim.
Such is the case with the European Starlings. Those are the black, shiny birds that fill the sky in enormous flocks of thousands of birds each. They are incredibly destructive of crops and orchards, causing an estimated $800 million in damage each year. Their large flocks can be a problem for airplanes (one ill-fated flock cause an airplane crash in the 1960s), and they outcompete native species with their sheer numbers. They even act like malarial mosquitos, as they carry many diseases which can infect humans, such as histoplasmosis (a lung disease, which can be fatal if untreated).
And how did this giant population get its start in the United States? Because Eugene Schieffelin of the American Acclimatization Society decided that he wanted to introduce to America all birds mentioned by Shakespeare. No word yet on whether he also encouraged double childhood suicides or rings of rhyming witches.
- Killer Bees
Biologist Warwick Kerr had a grand idea. People like honey, and bees make honey, but the European honey bees that are usually used, aren’t really the most durable of creatures. So, Kerr thought, I will crossbreed these European bees with African bees, who are larger and stronger. The result was a honey bee that swarms much more often, is much more defensive, and attacks aggressively when the hive is disturbed. After their accidental release, they have spread across Southern, Central, and into North America.
As the name implies, these “Africanized” bees have killed people, although this only causes one or two deaths per year.
- Burmese Python
The Burmese Python is one of the five largest snakes in the world, with individuals averaging 12 feet in length, but also known to reach 19 feet. They are strong swimmers and are often found in or near water, and as such are really only an invasive species in Southern Florida (which is good news, unless you live in Southern Florida). These giants prey one whatever animal they can get their coils around, reproduce quickly, and have few predators (humans and crocodiles) in Florida. The greatest worry, besides the impact on local species, is that the python could potentially spread beyond Florida.
- Wild Boar
Remember what I said earlier about species being introduced for stupid reasons?
Enter the Wild Boar, introduced in America in the 19th century by wealthy landowners as something to hunt. Over the next few hundred years, many, many populations of boar escaped and interbred with already established wild pigs, creating larger, meaner wild populations.
Boar are destructive to crops, digging them up for food, and while attacks on humans are rare, they are serious when they do occur. Boar attack viciously with their tusks, and can cause many puncture wounds (mostly on the thighs).