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.
1. Chinese Mystery Snail
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
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
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
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 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
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
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 Type||Invasive Species|
|1||Other Aquatic Animals||Chinese Mystery Snail|
|4||Insect||Brown Marmorated Stinkbug|
|5||Insect||Emerald Ash Borer|
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Davide Bonora/Shutterstock.com
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