The 5 Most Challenging Invasive Species of 2020
(For the Garden Industry)
For months, I’ve been publishing content hinting at the end of the year. Well, it’s finally arrived, the actual end of the year. So here I am, participating in the annual moment of reflection for perhaps the most controversial and difficult year in recent history. As l look back, all I can think of is how much we’ve overcome.
This year was nothing short of a challenge and being here today feelings like nothing shy of a miracle. But, looking back at all of the hard work our industry put in to thrive and stay afloat it’s not surprising that more growers and sellers saw upsides rather than downs.
With the ever present threat of invasive species, disease, and pests learning from this past year’s challenges will be just what we need to tackle 2021.
Let’s take a look back at this year’s 5 Most Challenging Invasive Species.
#1. The Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire)
This pest officially became so widespread this past year, that the USDA has ruled to roll back the quarantine efforts of the invasive species.
This pest officially infests all but 13 states of the contiguous United States of America.
Despite best efforts to quarantine and control the pest, the spread of the beetle has left many states with no other option but to remove the coveted Ash trees from their lands, and discontinue efforts of regulations.
The new USDA approach hopes to reserve funding and efforts currently used for quarantining the Emerald Ash Borer, so that more effective management can be developed and executed. 
#2. Asian Citrus Psyllid (Diaphorina citri Kuwayama or ACP)
This particular pest is always at the top of our list when it comes to terrible, no good, invasive species. As we’ve discussed in some of our previous blogs, the Asian Citrus Psyllid spreads the Huanglongbing (HLB) disease, also known as Citrus Greening, that currently has no cure.
Citrus Greening is responsible for a 21% decline in the fresh citrus fruit market, as well as a 72% decline in the production of oranges as of 2019.  The pest and its disease is currently found in 9 states throughout the contiguous United States, all residing within the citrus belt of the U.S.
The ever growing threat of this pest and the disease it carries is the root of the numerous citrus agreements, certifications, and licenses that are necessary for the Green Industry. Maybe in 2021 we’ll finally be able to get rid of this sucker for good!
#3. Gypsy Moth (Asian & European)
Besides being my least favorite invasive pest to look at, this pest sure is a doozy!
It has many technical names. The Asian Gypsy Moth is scientifically identified as “AGM, including Lymantria dispar asiatica, Lymantria dispar japonica, Lymantria albescens, Lymantria umbrosa, and Lymantria post¬alba” . The European Gypsy Moth is scientifically identified as “lobesia botrana or EGVM” .
See? A doozy.
But what’s more frustrating about this pest is the way that it invades its host trees and does just enough damage before leaving and making way for more dangerous diseases and pests to kill it off. Some of their trees of choice are Oak trees, Sweet Gum trees, Willow trees, Birch trees, Apple trees, and Boxelder trees. However, there are plenty of other trees they seek. The Asian variety of the gypsy moth eats both evergreen and deciduous tree varieties, while the European variety only targets deciduous trees.
But as if their damage wasn’t enough, these apparently evolved species of moths also are difficult to prevent and control. Their unique “ballooning” method of transfer that their egg sacs can have, allows for them to be carried by wind instead of just flight.
It was estimated back in 2011 that for the 20 years prior this pest had caused $30 million dollars in damages A YEAR! .
#4. Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula)
If you follow us on social media @PlantSentry, or frequent our blogs, you’re probably familiar with this pest!
This pest has been around since it was first found in Pennsylvania in 2014. Since then, management efforts against the pest have been challenging to say the least. Part of the difficulty in managing this pest is that their eggs, larvae, and adults easily travel undetected through contaminated material. These materials can include your shoes, firewood, and really anything else they can attach themselves to.
Educational efforts such as Play Clean Go help provide guidance to many of us who unknowingly transfer this pest in our outdoor activities.
This pest favors grape vines, hardwoods, and fruit trees, but will devor just about any plant. The fruit industry has been particularly impacted by this . So far their cost in damages has resulted in a $50 Million dollar decline throughout the state of Pennsylvania. 
Part of this economic decline as a result of the pest has also been 500 jobs lost throughout the state of Pennsylvania. 
#5. Kudzu (Pueraria montana var. lobata)
Ah, finally #5, Kudzu! Now here’s a real handful of an invasive species. This guy has been in the U.S. for years, all the way back to 1876, and was an introduced species originally used to help control erosion. Since its arrival this invasive species has become perhaps the most invasive plant species in the U.S.
This plant currently inhabits mostly the Southeastern portion of the country but can be found in 30 states throughout the U.S. 13 of the 50 contiguous states currently list this plant as a noxious weed, although it is no longer a federally listed noxious weed. 
With the ability to overgrow even trees in a forest, this plant overcrowds existing vegetation and prevents healthy growth of native species in their regions. It is currently estimated that this plant covers about 20,000 to 30,000 square kilometers of land throughout the U.S. 
Nationwide this invasive species contributes to roughly $500 million dollars lost in cropland and control efforts. 
Looking Forward in 2021
So there you have it, the 5 most challenging invasive species that we faced in 2020 throughout the Garden Industry.
It’s difficult to look at this list without concern for the future and wonder what combative steps we might take as an industry against these species. At Plant Sentry™ we ask these same questions and we have these same concerns. This is why as a company we’ve set the standard to provide the best possible guidance not just for ourselves, but for those we serve in resolving the challenges that invasive species bring.
Our company, Plant Sentry™, started out as a small idea, but it has turned into a component for much greater change. Throughout our industry companies and clients are showing more interest in working to resolve the challenges and issues that invasive species bring. As we greet the new year of 2021, we’re confident that our community will continue to encourage a brighter future with less invasive species.
Happy New Year from Plant Sentry™