In 1986 Varroa mites were introduced into the American bee population. These mites have destructive results in bee hives. The American population of bees has declined as much as fifty percent and continue to experience stress and decline from these blood sucking parasites. The mites came from Asia, where Asian bees are able to defend against these mites, through a regimen of grooming unknown to the American varieties of honey bees. Prior to 1986, beekeeping was rather easy and nonchalant compared with today’s frenzy of mite defenses.
It got me thinking about the long list of invasive species that originate from Asia. One of the earliest and most famous is the Japanese Chestnut that brought a blight that attacked the American Chestnut and wiped out an entire species. For urban technocrats of the twenty first century this may seem utterly irrelevant, until one considers the forest of which the American Chestnut was a major part. Chestnut wood is impervious to insects and endures for many years even in ground contact. Forest animals needed this valuable food source. At Fall Creek Falls State Park in Tennessee, (where the highest falls east of the Mississippi River is found) a square chestnut log lays upon the ground as a bench near the overlook. It is a huge slab of American Chestnut still solid and enduring. In 1922, my grandfather built his house, a log cabin, in the Tennessee highlands where Chestnut logs were plentiful. It still stands and the logs are as solid as the day they were crafted into a cabin.
Perhaps the forest has seen the most invasive impact from foreign strains. The Elm is now experiencing a similar blight as the Chestnut from Asia. Today, we see woodlands engulfed by Japanese Lilac, choking out many native plants. The Tree of Heaven is a worthless invasive species that is polluting the forests of America, along with the Paulownia. However, Paulownia is developing a small market for rare slow growth trees that have interesting qualities of strength to weight, but its rapid multiplication has an impact that is uncertain.
Not only bees and the forest have experienced harmful effects from Asian species, Asian Mussels clog the Mississippi River and Asian Carp are taking over American rivers and lakes and decimating feed stocks. Not all invasive or harmful species come from Asia. The dreaded starling, whom my brother and I call the rats of the sky, came from Great Britain in 1890 and now are the most prevalent bird in America, as they have no predator to check their expansion. At the army base near Fort Campbell, Ky, it became necessary to exterminate hundreds of thousands of starlings that were threatening operations on the base. Starlings are extremely aggressive birds that drive other species from nest sites they want to use. Among the species they’ve chased off are Wood Ducks, Buffleheads, Northern Flickers, Great Crested Flycatchers, Tree Swallows, and Eastern Bluebirds. The Stink Bug has no predator here and is from Asia, consequently it is everywhere and stinks.
This is not an all-inclusive list, but it is clear that Asian plants, animals, aquatic life, fowls and insects need to stay in Asia along with their associated blight, mites, viruses and other incompatible features. European Honey bees were reintroduced in America in 1622, but fossils indicate they were here ages ago, dispelling the idea they are not native to America. It is past time to be alert to the devastations that come from foreign immigration of plants, animals and insects. We have laws and precautions in place, but it is good for everyone to know and understand these risks. Don’t hesitate to squash a Stink Bug, Starling, Japanese Lilac or Tree of Heaven.