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Invasive Pests of the Midwest

Most of us already consider pests a nuisance, but they can be extra troublesome when they spread from their native environments into new ones. Invasive plants, animals, and insects spread by various methods into places where they are not naturally found, which entomologists affirm can have detrimental effects on our local ecosystems. From non-native pet animals being released into the wild to international shipping chains accidentally sending stowaway insects, there are multiple ways for invasive species to arrive. No matter how they arrive – they’re difficult to irradicate!

In total, invasive species cost the US over $100 billion in damages every year. This number does account for invasive plants and animals as well as insects, but let’s take a closer look at some of the insects that now call the Midwest their home and their detrimental effects to homeowners and communities. 

Emerald Ash Borer

This iridescent insect is native to China and eastern Asia and was first found in North America in 2002. It is thought to have been transplanted via imported wood packaging and crating material. Once it arrived–and established itself in 35 states including the entire Midwest–it began looking for its favorite food: ash trees. Young ash borers eat the area just under the tree bark while adults eat the leaves. Their voracious appetites are causing the widespread death of ash trees, which are creating their own ecological problems.

As the tall ash trees die, gaps form in the forest canopy, and light reaches lower vegetation and other saplings. Other native trees may fill these gaps, but other invasive plant species can become boosted by the increased light which allows them to reproduce and colonize new areas rapidly. You can do your part to slow the spread of this pest by inspecting and only burning local firewood.

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

Native to China, Japan, and other parts of Asia, stink bugs were first found in the US in Pennsylvania in 1998. They have spread through the eastern US, are spreading through the midwest, and are also establishing themselves on the west coast. Named for the odor they produce when threatened, they are perhaps better known for the damage they cause to fruit-bearing trees and crops.

They are classified as a nuisance in Iowa, but in most of the Midwest, they have the additional classification of an agricultural nuisance. This is because they damage fruits such as peaches, apples, cherries, raspberries, as well as agricultural crops like soybeans and corn. These hungry insects pose difficulties to both farmers and homeowners alike! Spidexx offers treatments for stink bugs all year round. 

Gypsy Moth

One of two pests on this list imported purposefully, the gypsy moth was introduced in the 1860s by a French scientist living in Massachusetts. As native silk-spinning caterpillars were more susceptible to diseases, the plan was to breed a more resistant hybrid species. Unfortunately, some moths escaped and began breeding once they found suitable trees to feed on. They prefer oak, but eat hundreds of others including willow and some types of pine trees. While these are a far larger problem in the Northeast, they have defoliated over one million acres of forest per year since 1980.

Michigan’s forests are riddled with gypsy moths, and in the year 2000, they began to be found in Wisconsin and Illinois as well. One problem with gypsy moths is that they have few natural predators to keep them in check–but since their introduction, many species of birds and woodland mammals have developed a taste for them! Since gypsy moths have only spread to about 30% of our country’s susceptible hardwood forests, government programs such as the Slow the Spread foundation target high-risk areas and have reduced the moth’s rate of spread from over 13 miles a year down to 3.

To avoid spreading these pests, learn what the moths and their eggs look like (eggs are laid in teardrop-shaped groups of 600-1000 on trees), and check your vehicle and belongings after traveling into areas where they are known to be. 

Japanese Beetle

Native to Japan, this insect was first discovered in New Jersey in a nursery in 1916. It is thought that the beetle larvae got into a shipment of iris bulbs before 1912 when the US began inspecting imported goods. Over 100 years later, these beetles have spread from the East Coast past the Mississippi River and can be found in every state in the Midwest.

These beetles attack a wide variety of trees and plants but are very attracted to sweet smells. Homeowners throughout the US deal with decimated rose bushes and grapevines, as well as linden and elm trees from adult beetles. Larval forms of this beetle feed on grassroots. Unfortunately, both larval and adult beetles are active during the same season which means homeowners need to fight back against both forms of the beetle at the same time.

You can reduce the number of Japanese beetles found in your yard by planting a wide variety of plants as well as mulching around trees to regulate soil temperature and retain moisture. A grub control product in your yard should reduce the number of larval beetles, and Spidexx also treats adult Japanese beetles.

Asian Lady Beetle

The second insect on this list to be introduced intentionally, the Asian Lady Beetle was imported from Asia into the United States in 1916 as an attempt to naturally control pests on crops. Though it was hoped they would exclusively eat aphids, they escaped their greenhouses and began overtaking native ladybug populations. Unfortunately, in addition to eating the same food as ladybugs, Asian lady beetles also eat leaves, nectar, and even other ladybugs!

These pests are much more of a nuisance than ladybugs–when it is cold outside, ladybugs overwinter in outside shelters but Asian lady beetles try to make their way into your home around your doors and windows. These uninvited guests can also emit an odor and bite when they feel threatened. The best thing to do if you find a few of these inside your home is to vacuum them up, but if the problem persists we at Spidexx are happy to help reduce your Asian lady beetles.

German Wasp

Originally found in Europe, North Africa, and temperate Asia, this wasp has spread to every continent except Antarctica. As with several other species on this list, this spread is probably due to accidental transportation and shipping of queens. This species became established in the Northeast in the 1970s and spread to the Pacific Northwest by the 1980s. These wasps spread quickly because they are better foragers than many native insects, which in turn reduces the populations of native insect species.

They can be distinguished from native wasps by the cluster of dots on their faces as well as their abdomens. Today, they can be seen throughout the country–and not just in your own backyard. These wasps live closer to humans than many other types of wasps, frequently making their nests in the wall voids of urban buildings and homes. Their scavenging behavior makes them a nuisance at picnics, but their use of pheromones to summon other defending wasps and their ability to sting multiple times makes them a danger. Especially when these insects nest in wall voids, removal should be left to professionals due to how large the nests can become.

Contact Spidexx to Slow Invasive Species Spread

While no one can fully eradicate invasive species, we can all do our part by removing them when we find them in non-native environments. At Spidexx, we are experts regarding invasive species. We offer professional treatments for stink bugs, Asian lady beetles, Japanese beetle adults, and German wasps. Give us a call at (844) 200-2668 today for a free quote and to help reduce the spread of invasive insect species!