Category Archives: 2011 Texas Invasive Plant Conference

Dr. Damon Waitt predicts the next big invasive species to threaten Texas rangelands

Last year, Dr. Damon Waitt predicted the onslaught of Bastard Cabbage, an invasive species with mustard flowers that overran our Texas Wildflowers. With my latest interview with Dr. Waitt, you can learn more about Yellow Star-Thistle, the next big invasive species to threaten our Texas pastures, roadsides, and rangelands.

Dr. Waitt is a Senior Botanist and Director of the Native Plant Information Network at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas.

I interviewed Dr. Waitt for this video during the Invasive Species Workshop for Citizen Scientists in June 2012 at the Wildflower Center.

It’s been only a few months, but I look much younger in my first video with Dr. Waitt, Advances in the fight against invasive species in Texas, that I filmed during the Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Conference in November 2011.

Learn more about the invasive species that Dr. Waitt has talked about:

Your friend,

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Filed under 2011 Texas Invasive Plant Conference, Bastard Cabbage, Citizen Scientist, Damon Waitt, Invasive Species, Invasive Species Workshop, Invasive Species: Secrets Revealed, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Wildflower center, Yellow Star-Thistle

Commander Ben Joins Earth Week Activities at St. Edward’s University

At last year’s Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Conference, I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Mitch Robinson, Education and Land Management Coordinator for Wild Basin Preserve.

He talked with me about how Wild Basin Preserve fends off invasive species, and I was very impressed by his passion for protecting the preserve’s native ecosystem.

We’ve kept in touch since then, and he was so nice to invite me to be part of the Earth Week activities at St. Edward’s University, which were also broadcast on Google+ Hangouts. He was giving a presentation about invasive species on April 19, and he asked me to join him to talk about my experiences battling invasives and teaching others about them.

On the guard against invasives

Mr. Robinson started the event by giving an excellent presentation about invasives including several examples and how they affect our environment. I was especially intrigued by the Giant African Land Snail. Why? Because it’s giant and eats houses!

Actually, it eats the stucco off houses, but that’s close enough. They can grow up to 8 inches, and eat other snails and over 500 species of plants. They were brought into Florida as pets, but were released in the late 1960s, and Florida State University had to spend millions of dollars to battle them back.

It’s a menace to Western Civilization!

Native Plant Avengers movie trailer shown at St. Edwards

Afterwards, Mr. Robertson introduced me by first playing my latest video, Native Plant Avengers. When I saw my video played on a big screen in front of an audience, I had a great feeling of happiness because that’s why I make the videos–to help educate people about invasives and for my audience to have fun at the same time.

After my video, I talked about how I got started learning about invasives and teaching others. I also took questions from the audience and talked about my Invasive Hunter Academy as part of Kid’s Day during National Invasive Species Awareness Week at the US Botanic Garden.

Thank you so much Mr. Robinson and St. Edwards for inviting me to be part of your Earth Day events! It was a lot of fun! Down with invasives!

Your friend,

Update: Invasive Hunter Academy Returns to St. Edward’s University for Earth Day 2013

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Filed under 2011 Texas Invasive Plant Conference, Earth Day, Environmental, Giant African Land Snail, Googe+ Hangouts, Invasive Hunter Academy, Invasive Species, Mitch Robinson, National Invasive Species Awareness Week, Native Plant Avengers, St Edward's University, U.S. Botanic Garden, Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve

Rasberry crazy ants establish beachhead in Central Texas

Rasberry crazy ant invasive species poster at the 2011 Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Conference

In this Saturday’s Austin American Statesman newspaper, I was shocked to see that Rasberry crazy ants were found in Central Texas!

Less than six month ago, in November 2011, I interviewed Dr. Jerry Cook, Associate Vice President of Sam Houston State University, at the 2011 Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Conference.

During the first half of my video interview with Dr. Cook, he talked about his new Institute for the Study of Invasive Species. Afterwards, I asked him to tell me about the invasive species that he found the most interesting. He said he does a lot of work on ants and that he studied the red imported fire ants, but that his current favorite to work on was the Rasberry crazy ant (Nylanderia sp. near pubens).

At the time, he said that there were no sightings of crazy ants in Central Texas, but he predicted that they would be coming.

Sadly, in the back of my mind, I knew they were on the march and would be here one day. Yet, I was still surprised that it was so soon.

Stronger than fire ants?

The newspaper article said that the crazy ants were in a condominium in Briarcliff along the shores of Lake Travis, and they probably came from gardening material from Houston, where they were first found by a pest control man, Tom Rasberry, in 2002. (They named the ant after him.)

The ant probably came to Texas from South America, and Dr. Cook said they’re called crazy ants because they move around very quickly and erratically, moving here or there.

They can take over areas from fire ants, which may sound good, but they come in such massive numbers that they can overwhelm and suffocate wildlife, damage electrical systems, and make houses unlivable.

With so many and being so fast and numerous, they are hard to eradicate.

The news of crazy ants coming to Central Texas, so close to my own home, shows the importance of educating people about invasive species and preventing their spread.

Now that they are here, they’ll be very difficult to get rid of. 😦

Your friend,
Commander Ben

P.S. Learn more about the Rasberry crazy ants:

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Filed under 2011 Texas Invasive Plant Conference, Austin American Statesman, Fire ants, Institute for the Study of Invasive Species (ISIS), Jerry Cook, Lake Travis, Rasberry Crazy ant, Texas Invasives

USDA Celebrates Commander Ben and His Invasive Hunter Academy

Thanks, Ms. Kelsey Branch, APHIS Biologist, for the fantastic blog post, “Meet USDA’s Youngest Ally in the Fight against Invasive Species: Ben Shrader, Invasive Hunter”

I had a great time with Ms. Branch in Washington D.C. during National Invasive Species Awareness Week (NISAW) from February 26 to March 2, 2012, and during NISAW Kids’ day at the U.S. Botanic Garden, I enjoyed teaching kids about invasive species as part of my Invasive Hunter Academy.

It’ll take more than a day or week to take down these invasive species, so the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has declared April as Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month.

Learn more about invasive species:


Filed under 2011 Texas Invasive Plant Conference, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, APHIS, Hungry Pests, Invasive Hunter Academy, Ms. Kelsey Branch, National Invasive Species Awareness Week, NISAW, Texas Invasives, U.S. Botanic Garden, United States Department of Agriculture, USDA

Bastard Cabbage Fouls Texas Bluebonnets

Commander Ben beseiged by Bastard Cabbage

What a nice surprise to see Dr. Damon Waitt on TV last night! Dr. Waitt is the Senior Director and Botanist at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

He was talking about Bastard Cabbage (Rapistrum rugosum), also known as Mediterranean Mustard. It’s a terrible invasive species that is overrunning Texas wildflowers, especially our beloved Texas Bluebonnets.

I first learned about Bastard Cabbage from him last fall in my video interview with him at the 2011 Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Conference. He said that this plant was the invasive species that really worried him.

Seeing Dr. Waitt interviewed by Mr. Jim Swift on KXAN reminded me of that plant, and I had to go out today to learn more about it.

Invasive Species Create Terrible Monocultures

Bastard Cabbage crowds out the wonderful Texas bluebonnets and creates a terrible monoculture. It towers over the bluebonnets, and the rosette at the base of the plant and long tap root steal resources that could have gone to the native Texas wildflowers.

They have a long stem and small yellow flowers. When I saw it when I was younger, I thought it was a native Texas wildflower.

Fight Back Against this Invasive Plant

In the KXAN article, Dr. Waitt said that with enough seed, Indian Blanket wildflowers might be able to compete with this invasive plant, but that’s a hard fight to win.

Bastard Cabbage overruns Texas Bluebonnets along highway 360 in Austin, Texas

Dr. Waitt said it’s best to hand pull Bastard Cabbage. I did my part pulling some up on highway 360 in Austin, and I took some down with my moves from the Invasive Hunter Academy. I also took a plant sample for my herbarium.

He said that on a 10 point worry scale, he’s at a 9.5. If Dr. Waitt’s worried about our Texas Bluebonnets, we should all be worried too!

Thanks, Dr. Waitt, and the Texas Invasives website for teaching me about this terrible invasive!

Your friend,
Commander Ben

Update: Video: See Native Plant Avengers – Ecosystem’s Mightiest Heroes – battle Bastard Cabbage

Update: Bastard Cabbage Takes Over Texas Wildflowers

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Filed under 2011 Texas Invasive Plant Conference, Bastard Cabbage, Damon Waitt, Herbarium, Invasive Hunter Academy, Jim Swift, KXAN, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Texas Bluebonnets, Texas Invasives