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Make Memories This Fall

Even if you don’t mean to, you can easily spread invasive insects and plants when you go camping. These pests can hitch a ride on your gear as you travel to and from your trip, potentially moving thousands of miles. Once they’re in a new area, they can cause problems for the local ecosystem. Invasive species can crowd out native plants, disrupt the food web, and spread disease. They can also be costly to control. To help prevent the spread of invasive species, it’s important to clean your gear before heading out on a camping trip. Be sure to remove any dirt or debris, and check for signs of insects or other pests. If you find anything suspicious, it’s best to leave it behind. By taking a few simple precautions, you can help protect our nation’s forests from the damaging effects of invasive pests.

The spotted lanternfly – This destructive pest feeds on a wide variety of plants, including trees, shrubs, vines, and crops. Adults lay their eggs from September until the first frost on any vertical surface, such as tree bark or the side of a building. The eggs are small and mud-colored, making them difficult to spot. When the eggs hatch, the nymphs begin feeding on plant sap, which creates sticky honeydew that attracts stinging insects and coats leaves with black sooty mold.

Spongy Moths – The Spongy moth is a concerning insect due to the immense amount of damage it can cause in just a single season. Their caterpillars have a hearty appetite for many types of trees, including oak, maple, pine, and hemlock. In outbreak years, these moths can defoliate millions of acres of forested land. Although the caterpillars are distinctive, the egg masses are easily mistaken for something else and can be transported without realization.

Wood Borers – During the autumn, many invasive and destructive borers like the Asian longhorned beetle and emerald ash borer are in the larval stage beneath the bark. For this reason, moving firewood long distances to and from campsites risks spreading these pests. The emerald ash borer has already caused devastation across the United States, killing millions of ash trees. Don’t share the devastation wrought by invasives by moving firewood. If you must move firewood, do so only short distances and burn it all before storing it again. This will help to prevent the spread of these destructive pests.

Soil Borne Pathogens – Sudden oak death and boxwood blight are two of many soil-borne pathogens threatening plants in Indiana forests and landscapes. These pathogens can spread through the soil and infect plant roots, leading to declining health or even death. While the spores of these pathogens can be spread by hikers walking over contaminated areas, there are steps that can be taken to prevent their spread. Be sure to wash your boots after hiking in affected areas, and consider using boot covers or disposable booties to further reduce the risk of contamination.

Jumping Worms – A new invasive worm is starting to make its way into Indiana. It moves between gardens when muddy equipment is loaned, compost is shared, or when plants are traded with soil. This new invasive worm can strip the organic matter from productive garden soil and give it the inhospitable texture of coffee grinds. Trading plants with soil is not recommended in areas where these worms have been found.

Weed Seeds – Japanese Stiltgrass (Microstegium Vimineum) is an annual grass that invades moist, shady areas, such as forest understories. This species can quickly form a dense mat, crowding out native plant species and changing the structure and function of the soil. Japanese Stiltgrass is native to Asia, but it has been introduced to North America and is now found in at least 34 states. The plant spreads rapidly by seeds, which are transported in mud on equipment that is moved in the fall. Once introduced to a new area, Japanese Stiltgrass can spread quickly, forming large mats that crowd out native vegetation.

Follow these tips to stop invasive hitchhikers.

Check Conditions –  If traveling to or from an Infested area, in Indiana the Department of Natural Resources Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology (DEPP.) The DEPP maintains a website for “pest of concerns” which helps you discover which pests are a problem, additionally the USDA SPHIS mains a website for location of pests by state.

Do Not Move Firewood – Moving firewood long distances is one of the main ways that pests and diseases are spread in forested areas. In order to prevent the introduction or spread of these problems, it is recommended that you collect or purchase your firewood within 30 miles of where you plan to use it. Trees inside of this radius are exposed to the same types of pests and pathogens so there is a lower risk of spreading something new. If you move this wood too far (more than 30 miles) you risk moving a pest or pathogen to a new area where they can attack and kill new trees.

Wash Muddy Boots, Campers, Camp Equipment, and Farming Equipment – One of the ways that invasive weeds and plant diseases spread is by hitchhiking on mud. Seeds and spores can become trapped in mud, and then be carried to new areas when the mud is moved. This can happen when people travel to hiking areas and track mud into the area, or when people hike through an area and then carry the mud on their shoes or clothing to new areas.

If you find invasive pests you can report them by calling (866)-663-9684 or sending a photo via email to DEPP@dnr.IN.gov.