How Much Do You Know About Invasive Species in the US?

By: Monica Lee
Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Sometimes it starts with good intentions, like trying to rid a sugar cane plantation of rats, and ends with mongooses eating everything else on the island -- except rats. Most times, it's due to our shrinking world with insects, plants and microscopic organisms hitching rides on freighters, supplies, and introduced in the ballast water of ships. If you're into ecosystems, or just keep up with the news, you'll know many of these invasive species. But can you name them all? Try your best and see if you can match the invasive species to the clues given. Don't wait, start the quiz now. 

Broadly speaking, an invasive species is non-native and whose introduction causes environmental harm, pushing out the native species. Have you heard of Red Fire Ants? How about the Sea Lamprey? Then there's the Asian Citrus Psyllid that does damage to the trees that produce your favorite breakfast juice. In most cases, these invasive species have common features: high rates of reproduction, no known predators, and easy prey. Has your mind been invaded with the correct answers? Then it's time to take this quiz and see how much you really know about the world around you. Start now by clicking the button below. 

Which one is originally from Burmese and is wreaking havoc in the Florida Everglades​?

No one knows how Burmese pythons were originally introduced into the Florida Everglades, but it only takes two of them to make babies. These pythons give birth to about four dozen babies every year. The growth of their population may be why the population​s of raccoons, opossums, bobcats, marsh and cottontail rabbits, as well as foxes, are down.

Which of these, although small, is deadly to the Ash tree?

Although they call Russia, China and Japan home, the Emerald Ash Borer arrived in southeastern Michigan in 2002 and has spread from there, killing tens of millions of ash trees in its growing path. Adult beetles lay eggs on the bark of ash trees and their larvae feed on the nutrition transportation tissues that the tree needs to survive.

Which of these were imported for their fur but now dig up river banks and destroy the ecosystem?

Imported from South America for their fur in the 1930s, their population skyrocketed once demand stopped for their fur. Worse yet, female nutria or swamp rats give birth to litters of up to 14 then are ready to mate within two days.

Which of these birds move in flocks that resemble small black clouds?

Shakespeare enthusiasts in the 1890s introduced these birds to the U.S. Today, with a a population of about 200 million, they travel in flocks and use their numbers to bother large animals (cows, horses, etc.) until the animals move off so they can take their food.

Which fish is reducing the Lake Trout population in the Great Lakes?

Alewives are a small herring that eat Lake Trout eggs and compete with juveniles for zooplankton. If a trout or landlocked salmon eats alewives, they get a vitamin deficiency that can kill their larval.

Which fish devours nearly every bite-size fish in its path but has no known predator?

The Northern Snakehead hails from China and Korea but was found in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and is spreading to Delaware and Virginia. It looks like a cross between a python and an electric eel. With no predator and the female's ability to produce up to 100,000 eggs, it is a huge challenge to keep the population under control.

Which of these insects destroy fruits and vegetables?

Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs were found in 1998 in Allentown, Pennsylvania. It was thought the stink bugs came from a cargo ship that probably stopped or came from China where these bugs call home. Stink bugs destroy fruits and vegetables and were recently detected in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

Which of these were brought to the U.S. by hunters who wanted to enjoy the sport year round?

Wild Boars are known to eat the eggs of any ground nesting bird as well as devour acorns and chestnuts. Already established in 47 states, there are huge numbers in Texas, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. Because of their destructive nature, in most areas, hunters are allowed to shoot them on sight.

Which one of these sea creatures eats most everything on the coral reef?

Originally admired for their beauty, the Lionfish is a swimming pig, consuming most every living thing in a coral reef. Although originally found in the Pacific, they are now found most everywhere from the Gulf of Mexico, to the Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea.

Which of these animals are like city rats but live in the country?

Running from ground to tree branch, Norway Rats (also known as Brown Rats and Sewer Rats) will eat everything from eggs in nests to young chickens, garbage and even wood! Introduced in 1775, they now live everywhere in the country.

Which one is an invasive species that eat​ eggs, is fast, muscular, invades homes, and harasses pets?

Tegus look like little brown anolis lizards. Unfortunately, when pet stores released the Tegus into the wild in the Florida Keys, they did similar damage in Florida as the Pythons. They are on the verge of reaching into southern Georgia with no known predators in sight.

What is the name of the insect that creates a disease in orange trees and acts like a cancer?

The bacteria that the Asian citrus psyllid carries has many names: "huanglongbing", “yellow dragon disease” and “citrus greening” but they all cause the same destruction. From deformed roots to fruits dropping prematurely, the tree slowly dies. Discovered outside Miami in 2005, it spread to 31 other counties within two years.

Which of these snakes were accidentally introduced in a U.S. territory in the 1950s?

Native to Australia and Indonesia, the brown tree snake was accidentally introduced in Guam in the 1950s. Today, there are no longer any birds left. And the brown tree snake in now finding lizards as a tasty substitute.

What is the name of the grass that is destroying the habitat of native grasses such as sage brush?

Cheatgrass is an invasive grass that has established itself through the western U.S. It competes with native grasses and fuels intense fires. It pushes out sage-grouse and other sage-dependent species.

What invasive species was brought to the Great Lakes on the ballast water of ships?

Although native to Eastern Europe and Western Russia, zebra mussels were found in the Great Lakes region in the 1980s, and had spread through all of the lakes by the 1990s. They compete with fish for plankton and clog pipes with their colonies.

Which fly was discovered in Pennsylvania and eats over 70 species of plants?

The laternfly was discovered in Berks County in 2014, and has spread to neighboring counties. It is so destructive because it has an abundance of food it can eat, feeding on more than 70 species, including grapes, apples, stone fruits, and pines.

The Zika virus is transmitted by which one of these?

Although the Zika virus was limited to the equatorial belt, it is now in the U.S, transmitted by mosquitoes. According to the Centers for Disease Control*, in 2017, 418 symptomatic Zika virus disease cases were reported in the U.S. So far, there have been no reports in 2018. *https://www.cdc.gov/zika/reporting/2017-case-counts.html

What type of invasive crab was found in the San Francisco Bay in 1992 and has been spreading since then?

Known for eating the eggs of spawning salmon, trout and sturgeon, the Mitten Crab is a serious threat to the freshwater, estuarine and%0Dmarine ecosystems One mitten crab was found in the Columbia River in 1997.

What kind of crayfish is aggressively competing against the native crayfish in the Pacific Northwest?

The Red Swamp Crayfish eat the plants, snails, fish, and amphibians, as well as take up residence in the native crayfish habitat. To identify them from native crayfish, you'll note the red swamp crayfish claws are covered with red, white or black bumps (tubercules).

What is native to Asia and Australia and is now shading out vegetation in Florida?

Old World climbing ferns sprout on trees and don't allow native vegetation to bask in the sun all over east-central Florida. One of the reasons why it is so hard to eradicate is because the fern has the ability to “resprout” along each climbing leaf. That means if you leave a SINGLE leaf to thrive, a new fern will sprout.

Cattle are not feeding properly due to which invasive plant on their pasture?

Foliage and stems from the Tropical Soda Apple (TSA) are hard for the cattle to digest which makes it a big problem since Tropical Soda Apple is known to grow in pastures. The current hypothesis is that cattle carrying undigested TSA seeds that were imported from Brazil may have accidentally introduced it in the U.S.

What floating, flowering perennial can cover a lake surface from shore to shore because it grows in links?

You may be surprised to learn that an acre of water hyacinths can weigh up to 200 tons! That means it can easily jam rivers and lakes with tons of floating plant matter. This invasive species takes over the body of water completely, pushing out any native plants.

What is the name of the invasive species known as the "vine that ate the south"?

Although the Kudzu was introduced at the Japanese pavilion in the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, the vine didn't take hold here until nearly 55 years later when it was reintroduced as a way to stop soil erosion on farms. Workers were paid $8 per acre to sow topsoil with the invasive vine that grows quickly and shades out the native species.

What is the media name for Africanized Bees?

Due to the violent attacks of this hybrid of African and European honeybees, the name "Killer Bees" became the popular way to reference this invasive species. This hybrid comes from Brazil and while its sting is no more poisonous than one of a honeybee, the large numbers of killer bees that attack together can prove fatal to animals and people.

What is the name of the invasive species that is pushing out the native fish in the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers?

Asian carp eat plankton which includes algae and other microscopic organisms that native fish and mussels need to survive. The fish were brought from Southeast Asia because they can help in many areas, including keeping retention ponds clean. They entered the Mississippi River as a result of flooding.

What is the name of the tiny brown insect that is known to destroy hemlock and spruce trees?

The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) sucks sap from hemlock and spruce trees, weakening and eventually killing the tree. They also lay their egg sack on the underside of hemlock branches, which look woolly or like small tufts of cotton. They were accidentally introduced here from Japan nearly 70 years ago.​

What invasive species might you give to your date on Valentine's Day?

Rosa multiflora is considered an invasive species In eastern North America due to its faster growth and ability to push out native roses from their habitat. It was introduced from Asia to help in soil conservation along with creating natural hedges to contain grazing pastures.

What type of invasive species competes with native fish for prey?

The Spiny Waterflea entered the Great Lakes in ballast water released from ocean-going ships. It is able to multiply so quickly because its unappetizing spiny tail keeps it from becoming dinner for the fish.

There is yet another fish that has invaded the freshwater lakes in the Midwest. Which one is it?

From eating the larva of other fish, to competition for zooplankton, the Rainbow Smelt have expanded their impact throughout North American freshwater lakes for more than 100 years. The infestation resulted from rainbow smelt having been​ stocked into Crystal Lake, Michigan, in 1912.

With sharp spiny fins, which of these fish are also disrupting the ecosystem of the Great Lakes?

Appearing in the Great Lakes (Lake Superior to be exact) the Ruffe came in the ballast water of an ocean-going vessel. High growth rates along with high reproductive rates and the ability to adapt to a myriad of environments, has made this small fish a serious threat to other species.

Which of the following parasites sucks the life out of a fish?

Sea lampreys use their sharp teeth to cut through scales and skin and then use their sucking disk to digest a fish’s body fluids until it dies. Each sea lamprey can kill 40 or more pounds of fish.

What type of insect stings repeatedly and is found in many areas of Texas?

When disturbed, red fire ants emerge aggressively, crawl up vertical surfaces, then bite and sting non-stop. They have displaced other species of fire ants native to Texas and continue to populate in other areas.

What invasive species are Virginia officials trying to convince the public to eat?

Virginia officials hope the public will agree that the Cownose Ray, rebranded as "Chesapeake Rays," are a tasty substitute for veal. They hope the thinning of Cownose Rays will protect the Chesapeake Bay's oyster industry.

A pine tree's natural defenses don't work with which one of these invasive species?

When insects bore into pine trees, the trees fight back by increasing their flow of sap, a defense that forces the invaders out of the holes in the bark. Unfortunately, pine beetles produce a fungus that disables this defense. Eventually, unable to absorb water, the pine tree withers and dies.

In Hawaii, which invasive species is known for its taste for the state bird?

Originally brought to Hawaii to help control an overwhelming rat population, the Asian Mongoose chose not to eat rats and instead eat something easier: eggs and baby birds, specifically enjoying Hawaii's state bird, the Nene or Hawaiian goose.

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