Discover 7 Invasive Species in Minnesota

Written by Niccoy Walker
Updated: July 22, 2023
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Many invasive species reside in Minnesota, especially terrestrial and aquatic plants. Invasive plants and animals can be damaging to the environment and economy by reducing native species, limiting biodiversity, hogging limited resources, and altering habitats. These non-native plants and animals can have a huge impact on ecosystems and our way of life. Minnesota calls on its citizens to report any sightings of invasive species to help control the spread. You can report them to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Discover seven invasive species in Minnesota and find out where they live and the damage they cause.

invasive species in Minnesota

1. Chinese Mystery Snail

Chinese Mystery Snail - Invasive Animals

Chinese mystery snails are native to Southeast Asia, but they’ve established a presence in the U.S.


The Chinese mystery snail is a small spiral-shelled aquatic snail. They feature an olive-green color and can grow up to 3 inches tall. They get their name due to their offspring mysteriously appearing fully developed. This species is native to Asia but was brought to the United States as a food source during the late 1800s. People can also get them for their aquariums, which leads to their release into the wild. Chinese mystery snails reach large populations quickly and live on the bottom of lakes and rivers. They also carry parasites that can negatively impact native mussels.

2. Common Carp

man holding giant common carp

Common carp disrupt ecosystems by feeding on shallow plants and decreasing water quality.

©Fabien Monteil/

While common carp is a popular game fish, the large omnivorous species wreak havoc in shallow lakes and wetlands. They are native to Europe and Asia but were introduced to the Midwest in the 1880s. You will often find them in lakes and rivers, especially during the spring when they spawn in shallow water. These fish are abundant in many bodies of water and impact the ecosystem by feeding on shallow plants, increasing algae, and decreasing water quality. With declining water quality, aquatic plants, fish, and waterfowl may also see reductions in their populations.

3. Mute Swan

Most Vicious Animals

Mute swans can be very defensive of their nests and are highly protective of their mate and offspring.

©Arte foto/

These large water birds are beautiful and elegant, and many people enjoy seeing them floating on lakes. They can grow 4 feet tall and have a wingspan between 7 and 8 feet, making them one of the largest birds in the country. And you can find them on lakes and near other wetlands. They are native to Europe and Asia and were introduced to the U.S. in the 1800s to be part of zoos and parks. Despite their beauty, mute swans disrupt ecosystems by chasing away other native water birds, preventing them from nesting. Additionally, they can be aggressive toward humans. They also uproot aquatic vegetation, reducing native plants. 

4. Brown Marmorated Stinkbug

Macro image in natural light of isolated specimen of Brown marmorated stink bug, scientific name Halyomorpha halys, photographed on a green leaf with natural background.

Brown marmorated stinkbugs feed on 200 native plants.

©Davide Bonora/

The brown marmorated stinkbug was accidentally introduced into the U.S. from Asia. It arrived undetected and sightings began in the 1990s. The first sighting of this bug in Minnesota occurred in 2010. They are now found in many parts of the state. This insect feeds on over 200 native plants, including fruits, vegetables, and row crops. And they can cause infestations in urban buildings and homes during the winter.

5. Emerald Ash Borer

Emerald Ash Borer

It may boast a beautiful shade of green but the Emerald Ash Borer destroys ash trees with a vengeance.

©Don Bilski/

Emerald ash borers are destructive beetles native to Asia. They were first detected in Minnesota in 2009 and have become an issue for many states and Canada. They are responsible for killing millions of ash trees around the country. And because Minnesota has one of the largest concentrations of ash in the United States, these green beetles have the potential to cause massive damage to forests and communities. Be sure to report any sightings of the emerald ash borer.

6. Bull Thistle

Cirsium vulgare, Spear thistle, Bull thistle, Common thistle, short lived thistle plant with spine tipped winged stems and leaves, pink purple flower heads, surrounded by spiny br.

Though beautiful, bull thistle displaces native plants.


This herbaceous plant can grow up to 6 feet tall and features prickly spines along its leaves and stems. Bull thistle is a biannual plant native to Europe, Asia, and Africa and was introduced to the United States accidentally. They most likely traveled with other seed shipments and spread from there. They are currently found throughout Minnesota. Bull thistle spreads quickly, displacing native plants and limiting diversity. Most grazing animals won’t go near it, so this plant has an edge over others. Look for this invasive species in disturbed areas, like pastures, ditches, and roadsides.

7. Poison Hemlock

close up wild white flowers of hemlock plant

Poison hemlock is highly poisonous and can be fatal if ingested.


Introduced as a garden plant in the 1800s, poison hemlock is originally from Europe, Asia, and Africa. It is an herbaceous plant that features clusters of white flowers and can grow 8 feet tall. This plant is very poisonous and can be fatal if ingested by humans and animals. You must wear protective clothing to handle it. Poison hemlock grows in dense patches near streams and fields, displacing native plants. Call a professional to remove this noxious weed; do not try to eradicate it yourself. 

Summary of Invasive Species in Minnesota: A Recap of the Top 7

Animal TypeInvasive Species
1 Other Aquatic AnimalsChinese Mystery Snail
2FishCommon Carp
3BirdMute Swan
4InsectBrown Marmorated Stinkbug
5InsectEmerald Ash Borer
6PlantBull Thistle
7PlantPoison Hemlock

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Davide Bonora/

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About the Author

Niccoy is a professional writer for A-Z Animals and her primary focus is on birds, travel, and interesting facts of all kinds. Niccoy has been writing and researching about travel, nature, wildlife, and business for several years and holds a business degree from Florida State College. A resident of Florida, Niccoy enjoys hiking, cooking, reading, and spending time at the beach.

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