What’s Bugging California?

The Ameal Moore Nature Center loves partnering with outside organizations!  This past weekend we teamed up with UC Riverside’s Director of Invasive Species Research, Dr. Mark Hoddle!

An invasive species is a plant, animal, or fungus that is introduced to an area.  Once introduced, it out competes native species (species originally from that area) for survival, causing native species populations to dwindle.  Sometimes these species directly attack native ones by eating them, and sometimes they cause death by carrying disease.  If the invasive species has no predators in the area, their populations will increase unchecked and ultimately wipe out the food source and cause the native species in the area to die off.

For Riverside, the Citrus Psyllid is an invasive ‘bad bug’ that could take down the citrus industry!  This bad bug has cost billions of dollars in damage to Florida’s orange industry already. We don’t want that here!

The question of how to deal with invasive species has been approached in many ways.  Some of these ways are as simple as pulling up the species if it’s a plant.  But for small invasive species, such as tiny insects, eliminating each insect one at a time is both difficult and impossible.  Other methods include harsh pesticides, which can be harmful to other native species, humans, and pets.  Dr. Hoddle spoke to visitors about a better option: biological control (or biocontrol). Biological control involves finding and introducing the natural predator of the invasive species.

Dr. Hoddle and the Invasive Species Research Department focus use biological control to solve invasive species problems.  Dr. Hoddle and his team have worked in countries all over the world searching for the natural predators of invasive species that will help us lesson their impact safely.  Today, scientists like Dr. Hoddle keep specimens in quarantine and do years of research before releasing them to ensure that any introduced predators won’t cause damage to their new environment.

Dr. Hoddle brought videos, pictures, and specimens of the various species he works to eliminate.  Riverside’s citrus industry has a good fighting chance thanks to the efforts of Dr. Hoddle, his team, and other scientists like him!

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