Invasive Species

Coyotes are everywhere in North Carolina.

C'mon, "everywhere?" Really? Yes, really.  To borrow from a commonly used expression: you can't swing a cat outdoors without hitting a coyote around here. (Note: we would never actually swing nor recommend swinging a cat and our sincere apologies to people who don't care to think of cats and coyotes in the same imagery.)

We get into the prevalence of this particular animal species in our new audio special CREEP, which explores how and why coyotes migrated from the southwestern United States to our neck of the woods. Now that they're here, they're here to stay.

Red and ominous lettering reads WUNC Presents Creep amongst a forest floor.
Matthew Scott

Creeping, crawling, thriving, surviving … no matter where we look, animal species are living in our midst. Some survive despite the challenges and hazards human life imposes, while others thrive because of it. 

Is it just us…or have animals been acting different lately?

CREEP is an unexpected audio documentary for these challenging times. Journalists Elizabeth Friend and Laura Pellicer team up to tell the story of how the COVID-19 pandemic changed our relationship with the animals.

This half-hour special takes listeners on a virtual nature walk – one that makes some unplanned stops throughout history to examine how one species in particular has started showing up in unexpected ways since we humans started social distancing.


The nine-banded armadillo has been spotted more than 170 times in North Carolina in the past 12 years. Wildlife officials are asking the public to share photos and details to get a better idea of the creature's range.
Jay Butfiloski / N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission

If you’ve come across a nine-banded armadillo anywhere in North Carolina, wildlife officials want to hear about it.

Picture of an imported red fire ant
Alex Wild / University of Texas

Imported red fire ants are known for building large mounds that get in the way of everything from lawn mowing to crop harvesting. They swarm aggressively when disturbed, and defend themselves with painful, venomous stings.

A copperhead snake
Jeff Beane

With warmer weather and more outdoor activities comes the increase in snake sightings in North Carolina. There are nearly 40 species of snakes in the state with one of the most common being the copperhead. Despite the fact that there are copperheads in every county in North Carolina, there are still a lot of misconceptions and myths about them says herpetologist Jeff Beane

researchers working with Japanese seaweed
Courtesy of Aaron Ramus / Duke University

Eradicating invasive plants and species may not always be the best policy. A new study shows a non-native species of seaweed is helping coastal habitats in North Carolina.

Emerald Ash Borer And Other Invasives Hit NC Hard

May 23, 2016
an image of a metallic, green emerald ash borer
USDA

North Carolina is one of the states hardest hit by invasive forest pests, according to a report from the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.

Part of the problem is global trade is bringing new insects and diseases that are devastating native trees, said Gary Lovett, the study’s lead author.

An invasive pest, the emerald ash borer, found in Granville County
NC Dept. of Agriculture

State agricultural officials have placed a quarantine on firewood from three counties due to a destructive insect infestation.  Pest control crews have found  evidence of a beetle known as the Emerald Ash Borer for the first time in North Carolina.  It makes its home in ash trees and kills them over a period of two to three years.  The quarantine applies to any wood products made from ash trees in Granville, Person and Vance Counties. 

Phil Wilson of the state Agriculture Department says the bug spreads by flying from tree to tree or by lumber transportation.

A stem of the hydrilla plant. Biologists say the invasive aquatic weed is spreading to bodies of fresh water on the Coastal Plain.
Reinaldo Aguilar / Flickr Creative Commons

An invasive plant called hydrilla is spreading from the Piedmont toward lakes near the coast. 

Biologists say the aquatic weed first found in Wake County is now on river banks in northeastern North Carolina and in lakes near Wilmington.  Dr. Rob Richardson is a crop science professor at N.C. State University.  He says the plant grows in thick patches, which can cause problems in drinking water supplies.

"Large mats have, at times, clogged turbines," says Richardson.

An Asian Needle Ant (left) stings a termite.
Benoit Guenard / NC State University

Researchers from N.C. State say an invasive species of ant is slowly spreading through North Carolina's forests.

Asian Tiger Shrimp
James Morris/NOAA

Scientists are keeping a close eye on North Carolina's shrimp population as fishermen see more of an invasive species known as tiger shrimp. Fishermen have reported catching more than 200 this season. That's up from an average of 10 to 20 since 2008. James Morris is an ecologist with NOAA's Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research in Beaufort. He says more tiger shrimp could mean a smaller catch for North Carolina's traditional shrimpers.

Bean plataspid
ncsu.edu

An insect that feeds on invasive kudzu is making its way into North Carolina. The so-called kudzu bug was first discovered in Georgia several years ago. Jack Bacheler is an entymologist with N.C. State University. He says the problem is the beetle, called the bean plataspid, also likes crops like soybeans.

An Asian beetle that first turned up in Michigan is threatening to spread to North Carolina. The Emerald Ash Borer arrived in the U.S. about ten years ago. Since then it's spread from the midwest, to most of the states surrounding North Carolina. Brian Haines works for the state Forest Service.

Bedbugs have recently been found on the campus of Wake Forest University. Officials say dogs discovered evidence of the pests in a very small number of dorm rooms. Those rooms have been treated and are expected to be free of bedbugs as students arrive. Michael Waldvogel is an associate professor of entomology at North Carolina Statue University. He says N.C. State and Wake Forest use heat generating equipment to deal with any outbreaks of bedbugs.

North Carolina's first Invasive Plants Awareness Week begins today. State officials are encouraging residents to keep aggressive vines like kudzu and wisteria out of their gardens. Experts say invasive plants can wipe out large areas of vegetation native to North Carolina.  Debbie Crane of the North Carolina Nature Conservancy says they can also deal a blow to the state's tourism industry.