MINNEAPOLIS — You could call it cool or you could call it gross, but citizen scientists discoveredin Minnesota this summer.
Some invasive pests can do serious damage. Emerald Ash Borer, for instance, has had huge economic and ecological impacts in Minnesota. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture says non-native pests have been responsible for nearly wiping out entire tree species within decades.
Krista Menzel has been working on her garden for more than 20 years. But this summer, during one of her garden parties, she noticed something unusual.
"I noticed two beetles were crawling up this plant right here. And, being a total dork, my mind went into citizen scientist mode," she said.
She turned to the internet for help. After a little detective work, she sent off her sample to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It was soon confirmed she had a case of Asiatic garden beetle in her midst, the first ever seen in Minnesota.
Angie Ambourn, with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, says just after Menzel's discovery someone else flagged what would become the state's first elm seed bug sighting.
"I would say on average we're getting between one to two new invasive species per year that's reported by one of our citizens," Ambourn said. "The elm seed bug is really going to be a household nuisance. They're mostly going to congregate in people's windows and on people's houses, and people are going to be annoyed by that."
Meanwhile, Ambourn says the Asiatic garden beetle is a turf grass pest, and should only be a nuisance in that environment.
"It's frustrating and depressing to know that we have another potentially damaging beatle or another insect that's coming into our habitat here in Minnesota that could impact agriculture or gardens," Menzel said.
The state agriculture department says they've got a few species they're keeping their eyes out for.
"Emerald ash borer is certainly up there ... and then spongy moth, especially along the North Shore," Ambourn said. "If you look on the horizon, the spotted lantern fly is as close as Ohio and Michigan, and that is one we definitely have our eye on. ... That one has the potential to impact our grape industry and also our apple orchards, probably the two biggest industries that might be impacted by spotted lantern."
So what can you do to stop the spread of invasive species? Experts say that not moving firewood is one of the most effective ways to keep invasive species from spreading. And always remember to report a pest if you see one.
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