Category Archives: National Invasive Species Awareness Week

Invasive Hunter Academy joins Nature Nights at the Wildflower Center to Teach Kids about Invasive Species

Since I was very young, I’ve always enjoyed Nature Nights at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas.

Nature Nights are a great way for families, especially younger kids, to learn about wildlife, plants, and the ecology and ecosystem of Central Texas. On the following Thursdays from 6-9 p.m. this summer, you can listen to presentations, go on hikes, and take part in nature activities and crafts.

2012 Summer Nature Nights Schedule

  • June 21: Butterflies
  • June 28: Hummingbirds
  • July 5: Power of Plants
  • July 12: Birds of Prey
  • July 19: Bats
  • July 26: Snakes

Admission to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is free during Nature Nights. It’s a ton of fun for kids and adults too, and kids under 12 can also get a cool free gift from the center’s store.

Become an Invasive Hunter

I’m bringing the Invasive Hunter Academy to Nature Nights on Thursday, July 5, during the Power of Plants event.

I created the Invasive Hunter Academy as part of Kids’ Day during National Invasive Species Awareness Week (NISAW) at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington D.C. earlier this year.

As part of the academy, I’ll teach you how to spot invasive plants, how to defeat your enemies with your invasive hunter moves, and how to create an action scene to capture your battle with invasives.

Learn more about the Invasive Hunter Academy:

Thank you Ms. Alice Nance, Wildflower Center Education Manager, for inviting me to be part of your wonderful Nature Nights event!

I hope to see you during Nature Nights, and be sure to join me on July 5th to learn how to become an Invasive Hunter!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Invasive Hunter Academy, Invasive Species, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Ms. Alice Nance, National Invasive Species Awareness Week, Nature Nights

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,
Ben

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

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:

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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

The Unstoppable, Invasive Bastard Cabbage

Commander Ben gives Bastard Cabbage the business

There has been A LOT of interest in Bastard Cabbage (Rapistrum rugosum) lately.

If you travel along the roads in Central Texas and you don’t know about invasive species, you might think that the Bastard Cabbage is a nice, big wildflower on the roadsides. It’s not. It’s a terrible invasive plant that causes havoc by overrunning and towering over all the Texas wildflowers. The seedlings of the native plants don’t get light, and they die or can’t sprout and the Bastard Cabbage takes over, creating a monoculture.

Once you know what the plant looks like, you’ll see it everywhere. Instead of beautiful reds, blues, and other colors from our diverse native wildflowers, you’ll just see a suffocating blanket of yellow mustard colored flowers.

Is it unstoppable?

Dr. Damon Waitt, Senior Director and Botanist at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, had a popular interview with Mr. Jim Swift on KXAN TV last month, and during the interview, Dr. Waitt said that he was very worried that it would take over Texas roadsides and fields and overwhelm the native species.

His interview inspired me to learn more about this terrible invasive, and I wrote a blog post about it, “Bastard Cabbage Fouls Texas Bluebonnets“. I’m amazed and happy to see the heavy web traffic that I’ve received from this post. It’s great that everyone wants to learn more about this invasive plant!

Learn more about Texas invasives with the iWire newsletter

The March issue of the iWire newsletter also talks about this invasive plant with their “Hello Bastard Cabbage. Goodbye Bluebonnets.” article. You can learn what you can do to help get rid of Bastard Cabbage too.

And thank you iWire for talking about my “Invasive Hunter Academy” for Kids’ Day during National Invasive Species Awareness Week in Washington D.C. in your March 2012 and February 2012 issues!

The February issue also introduces, Ms. Jessica Strickland, the new the Invasive Species Program Coordinator at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. I was happy to meet her over Spring break. She was very nice and welcoming to me, but the invasive species better watch out!

If you don’t already get iWire, I encourage you to subscribe to this monthly e-newsletter to learn the latest news about invasive plants and pests in Texas each month.

Commander Ben…signing off

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

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Filed under Bastard Cabbage, Damon Waitt, Invasive Hunter Academy, iWire Texas Invasives Newsletter, Jessica Strickland, KXAN, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, National Invasive Species Awareness Week, Texas Invasives

Commander Ben Leads Young Invasive Hunters during National Invasive Species Awareness Week

Learn how future invasive hunters trained at Commander Ben’s Invasive Hunter Academy at Kid’s Day during National Invasive Species Awareness Week (NISAW) at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington D.C. With this video, watch their journey from novice naturalists to elite defenders of native species.

This is my first of a series of articles talking about my adventures in Washington D.C. during National Invasive Species Awareness Week. Check out my preview video for the Invasive Hunter Academy before the Washington D.C. event.


Thank you Ms. Lori Williams, National Invasive Species Council (NIISC) Executive Director, and Ms. Kelsey Branch, USDA Biologist and Kid’s Day coordinator, for inviting me to be part of this fun and exciting Kid’s Day! And thank you Dr. Damon Waitt, Senior Director and Botanist with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, for all your kind words and encouragement!

Your friend,
Ben

Update: USDA Celebrates Commander Ben and His Invasive Hunter Academy

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Filed under Battles with Invasive Species, Damon Waitt, Invasive Hunter Academy, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, National Invasive Species Awareness Week, U.S. Botanic Garden