Youth Science Lessons – Invasive Species Lesson 8
Well… this is it. We are entering the eighth and last week of our youth science series for the COVID-19 at home school lessons. Some schools are continuing for another week or so, some are giving exams soon, others are trying something different. It has been a weird experience for everyone. I am not sure how school will look next fall, but we can provide more at home lessons if the need is there.
These lessons did focus on at home because people were asked to stay at home. The country is opening up right now, and there may be a chance to explore our science lessons at other locations if home lessons are still needed in the fall. We will see.
But let’s look at our last lesson on invasive species today. I think it best to review a few things and leave you with they key lesson, which is what do I do with an invasive species I find? Our extension program has been all along (1) learn how to identify them, (2) learn how to report them, and (3) learn how to remove them.
Knowing how to identify an invasive species is step one. Most species of concern in the Florida panhandle are plants, and a good source to identify those is the University of Florida’s Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants website – http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/. Another source to determine if a plant or animal is invasive is the EDDMaPs website – https://www.eddmaps.org/. In Florida, the state is divided into Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas (CISMAS). You can find these near the bottom of the home page at the Florida Invasive Species Partnership (FISP) website – https://www.floridainvasives.org/. Each CISMA usually has an invasive list – at least and EDRR list.
You can browse these websites to find the names. The UF site will have fact sheets on them to help identify the plants. If you are not in Florida, I would recommend checking with your local extension office, they should have a list for you.
We recommend reporting the location of any invasive species to the EDDMapS site. You will have to have an account to do this, and that is free, but it is required. There are some basic questions they will ask, those in red are required. A photo is good, you can upload those. A latitude and longitude will be needed. This is hard for some folks, but many phones have a compass app on them, and this provides a latitude and longitude – if you can “put a pin down” you can get your LAT/LON, and google earth will help as well. There is also an app you can download called I’VE GOT ONE. You can find it at your app store, it is free, and makes reporting much easier.
There are three basic methods used to remove an invasive species from your property. (1) pull, or dig, by hand – mechanical. This works fine if you do not have too many. Also understand that if you do not get the entire root system, the plant will probably return. (2) chemical – this would be applying an herbicide (like Round-Up) on the plant. The UF IFAS page above gives information as to which herbicides work best. Remember herbicides kill plants, so if you get it on any other plants, they will die. Also understand that some herbicides will remain in the soil for a long period, and you may not be able to grow anything there for a few months. It is probably best to contact your extension office before you do this. And (3) biological – these are animals (usually insects) that consume the plant. These are usually creatures from the part of the world where the plant originated (nonnatives in themselves) and have to pass a series of tests before they can be released into our neighborhoods (to make sure they do no harm). So, there are not many biological controls. But there are some, and they are very effective. Again, the UF website will mention if there are any approved ones you can use. You can contact your extension office to see how to get them.
We have not mentioned invasive animals yet.
In your yard, you may have things like fire ants, brown anoles, or maybe an insect feeding on your trees. In south Florida iguanas, tegus, cane toads, and many others could be found. Identifying and reporting are easy enough. Removing is another story. Each of the above have their own set of problems – biting being one of them – so I would contact your local extension office for advice before trying something.
I keep mentioning “contact your extension office”. If you are in Escambia County, you can certainly contact me anytime for help.
– Our last activity for this series will be simply surveying your yard and reporting any invasive species to EDDMapS. This can be done in any county, or any state.
– Also, next week is Florida Invasive Species Awareness Week and the UF Extension team in the panhandle will be providing a Facebook LIVE series on invasive species each morning at 9:00 AM central time. You can join in and ask questions at https://www.facebook.com/PanhandleOutdoorsNews/ – JOIN US!
AS THE COUNTRY BEGINS TO OPEN AND PEOPLE BEGIN TO MOVE – REMEMBER TO HAVE FUN AND STAY SAFE.