5 Best Ways to Combat Invasive Alien Species in Your Garden (2022)

Invasive species - flowering Japanese Honeysuckle with white and yellow blooms

There’s a growing problem in our gardens and yards – quite literally – and that’s in invasive species. By invasive species, we mean not native plants and animals establishing themselves in ecosystems where they don’t become initially.

Why is this such a problem, you might ask? 

Well, when non-native species end up in your local ecosystem, they can potentially outcompete existing native species and dislodge them. Invasive plant species, for example, can degrade the soil and lead to erosion, which can, in turn, lower our water quality.

What’s more, they can cause overcrowding that kills essential native plants and trees that provide carbon storage, shade, and habitats for wildlife. Non-native plants can also increase the risks of bushfires.

One of the best ways to stop invasive species  is prevent their arrival in the first place. In this article, you will learn five great ways to combat invasive species in your garden.

So, without further ado, let’s look at how to prevent invasive species from spreading!

5 Ways to Combat Invasive Species in Your Garden

In order to effectively control and combat invasive species, you need to know what it means for a species to be an invasive species, and why they are harmful.

This video by NYSDEC provides a quick overview of invasive species and how they impact the environments they’re introduced to:

So, how can we stop invasive species from taking hold in our gardens?

Here are five easy ways to stop invasive species and limit the spread from one area to another:

1. Check Plants Before You Buy Them to See If They’re Invasive

If you familiarize yourself with the plants that are considered invasive, you’ll know whether or not you’re harming your local ecosystem when you visit a garden center.

If you find out your garden is home to some of these invasive species, try to replace them with non-invasive alternatives. Ask nursery staff in your area what the best things to plant are instead.

Bear in mind that invasive alien species of plants aren’t necessarily ugly. In fact, lots of them were brought to non-native locations because of their attractiveness or because they were fast-growing and influential groundcovers.

For instance, the Lantana plant might be pretty, but it forms thickets that are impenetrable as it grows. These thickets grow and grow until they take over vast swathes of native pastures and bushland.

Whether a plant is classified as invasive is complicated because it might grow non-invasively in one area but invasively in another.

English Ivy, for example, is well-liked in lots of areas in the United States, but in coastal areas, they’re particularly invasive and problematic.

Invasive species - English Ivy smothering the ground and trees along a roadside
English Ivy (Hedera Helix)

If you’re really into learning more about invasive species, get inspired with invasive species essays and check other people’s thoughts on the topic.

These essay samples include topics like how marine invasive species affect global biodiversity, how certain parks plan invasive species management, and even essays exploring invasive species as a significant environmental threat.

It’s great that teachers are encouraging students to write about such topics! Now you can read all about it and protect your garden in the right way!

2. Clean Boats After Use

When you’ve used your boat, you should clean it thoroughly. This involves removing visible plants, mud, animals, and fish from the boat. You also need to clean everything else you’ve used like fishing gear, clothing, trailers, and even dogs!

You should be sure to drain your boat of all water from transom wells, live wells, and hatches before you leave the launch site. Simply remove your drain plug before towing it and allow the complete drain to happen. You should never move anything alive from one body of water into a different one, even if they’re pretty close by.

Invasive species - stock image of a motor boat on a lake, next to the plants on the shore

As well as removing water, you need to remove any visible plants and vegetation from the propeller and anchor. You should also flush the wells with hot water to ensure they’re clean. Spraying your entire boat with a high-pressure hose is useful.

Finally, if you’re going to enter a different lake or body of water, you should let all of your equipment and your boat dry out for five or more days before you enter the water of the new place.

Invasive species are problematic in bodies of water. If they have no natural predators, they can cause damage to the native species by introducing disease, competing for space and food, and even by consuming the native species themselves. Once established, it’s pretty impossible to eradicate an alien invasive species.

3. Clean Your Boots, Clothes, and Gear After a Hike

When you’ve been for a walk, you’ve likely picked up a lot of dirt and mud. What’s more, you could have picked up pathogens or weed seeds.

Any visible seeds should be moved from clothes and shoes, and make sure you don’t have any hiding on straps, laces, or pockets.

When the ground is wet especially, you should stick to designated footpaths and trails to prevent spreading any diseases. Fungal disease like Chytrid is easily transported and has linked to frog extinctions across the world.

Invasive species can be carried on hiking gear - image of a couple hiking in the woods

Something else that’s dangerous to plants is Phytophthora, which is a type of root rot that can come back on your shoes and destroy native plants. It’s also spread on dirt and mud on vehicles and bikes.

After spending our hard-earned cash on outdoor gear like shoes and tents, it makes excellent financial sense to maintain them and keep them clean. As well as this, it makes environmental sense because it extends their life (resulting in less going to landfill), but it also saves the lives of native animals and plants.

4. Don’t Accidentally Transport Pests When You Travel

If you’re moving between states or regions, you should be extra careful with what you take with you. Even fruits and vegetables can carry pests, including insects.

One big no-no is moving firewood. Firewood is notorious for harboring pests. Even seasoned firewood from healthy trees is still a home to many invasive species when it’s stored outdoors.

Stack of fire wood outdoors with lake, grassland and forest  in the background

It’s tough to detect larvae and small eggs of invasive species, and they can lay dormant or hide under or on bark or even in the wood, thus escaping detection. If you move this firewood, you risk spreading an invasive species into a new area.

To prevent this from happening, either buy heat-treated firewood, gather it on-site (if permitted), or buy it in the location you’re going to burn it. That is one of the simplest ways to stop invasive species from coming along with you on your trip!

5. Fish Using Native Bait If You Can

Consider what bait you’re using wherever you go fishing in your local creek, river, or stream. If you use a fish or worm as bait, you might be introducing an invasive species to the area.

Be sure to seek out what native bait can be used in that area. And, of course, never dump any leftover bait into the river or stream when you’ve finished fishing for the day.

Fishing worms used for live bait in a container

In the United States, for example, most states forbid the use of live baits. Live bait is typically tiny minnows, worms, nongame fish, crayfish, frogs, and freshwater shrimp. However, if you catch live bait yourself from the body of water you’re fishing from, you’ll have no problems.

Live bait usage is forbidden in many places because of the damage it causes to native ecosystems. If your live bait escapes, it can invade the water and damage the ecosystem there. Instead of living bait, you can use dead bait of these species or artificial bait.

Examples of Invasive Species Wreaking Havoc

We’re heading for ecological disaster if we don’t follow these examples. Globally, there are many examples of how invasive alien species have pushed out native species, and the rate of spread is alarming. Here are some examples:

Burmese Pythons – these snakes are native to Southeast Asia, and were brought to North America during the 1990s as pets. However, when some of these pets escaped, they bred. It was in the year 2000 that the first populations were established. Now, these snakes are quite literally eating their way through native species in Florida. They’re huge too and can grow up to 20 ft long.

Cane Toads – are arguably the most infamous of invasive alien species. Cane Toads (Rhinella marina) were brought to other regions, including Florida, the Caribbean, and the Philippines, from South and Central America, where they originate from. The idea was that they would kill local sugarcane pests. Instead, however, they became a pest themselves. 

Check out this video by ExpertVillage Leaf Group to learn more about Cane Toads:

Gray squirrels/Red squirrels in the U.K. – In pre-victorian times in the United Kingdom, you’d only see red squirrels. This is because it wasn’t until Victorian times that gray squirrels were brought over from North America. Gray squirrels are much more complex than their gray cousins and can live in various habitats. They can also carry a virus that kills red squirrels but doesn’t kill them.

Final Thoughts on Ways to Stop Invasive Species

Alien invasive species are a huge environmental challenge and have become the greatest threat to biodiversity in local ecosystems.

What’s more, there are huge costs involved in managing invasive species. If we are to avoid invasive species overtaking native species, we need to be proactive and mindful of how we go about our daily lives.

Buying native plants, washing down boats, clothing, and gear, not transporting firewood, and using native bait are all things we can do to prevent the spread of non-native species in our environment!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are alien invasive species?

Any organism that is able to establish, grow and spread in an area it is not native to can be considered an invasive alien species if the manner in which it spreads causes harm in the new environment. Most non-indigenous species are not harmful and are not considered invasive species, which are only those that damage the ecosystem they're introduced to. Read the full guide to learn more about invasive aliens species.

Are all exotic/non-indigenous species invasive?

No. Many exotic/non-indigenous species are not harmful to the environment they're introduced to, and may even be beneficial. Alien invasive species refers to the plants, animals and other organisms that do cause harm to the environment they're introduced to. Learn more about invasive species in the full guide.

What should I do if I find invasive species in my garden?

This depends on the type of invasive you find. There are local and national resources that will tell you how much of a threat the species poses to the local environment, and what the appropriate action to take is. In most cases, they can be controlled but some may need to be eradicated. Read the full guide to find out more on how to prevent invasive species in your garden.

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