Terrestrial Terror: Final land brawl

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By Alice Rossignol and Rachael Gleason

Editor’s note: Great Lakes SmackDown! Terrestrial Terror is an ongoing Great Lakes Echo series.

Four weeks ago 16 of the most troublesome terrestrial invasive species in the Great Lakes region took to the ring to find out which one readers thought was the worst.

Plants entered land brawls facing mammals; birds took the sky to ward off insects.

But now it’s time to make the final decision.

The emerald ash borer drilled through the mute swan and feral swine to make it to the finals.

In the other corner the beech scale and its fungal sidekick bypassed another duo – the mystery snails – and then went on to defeat the European starling.

Make your case below and find out which species is the real terrestrial terror at the end of the week.

Fighter Profiles:

Alias: Green Menace

Legal name: Agrilus planipennis

Home Turf: Eastern Russia, northern China, Japan and Korea

U.S. Fighting Debut: June 2002 (Michigan)

Agent: Ash trees; affects woodlots and landscaped areas. Spreads when people move ash firewood and logs out of a quarantined area.

Preferred Great Lakes fighting arena: All eight Great Lakes states and two Canadian provinces.

Weight/Size class: 1/2 inch-long and 1/8 inch wide

Fighting Skills:

  • Ash trees better watch their behinds with this nasty invader. This tiny green beetle bores into ash trees, disrupting the transport of water and nutrients throughout the tree.
  • Borer infestations cause foliage to wilt, branches to die; heavy infestations thin out urban tree canopy and kill off mature ash trees, which can lead to temperature changes and increased air pollution.
  • The emerald ash borer is a money suck. Infestations economically burden homeowners, who must remove and replace dead ash trees.

Life Expectancy: About one year.

Offspring: Roughly 60 to 90 eggs per female.


Alias: The Bark Butcher

Legal name: Cryptococcus fagisuga

Home Turf: Europe

U.S. Fighting Debut: Michigan in 2000 and Wisconsin in September 2009

Agent: Accidental introduction by an unknown agent.

Preferred Great Lakes fighting arena: Michigan, Wisconsin and Ontario

Weight/Size class: 1 mm long

Fighting Skills:

  • The Beech scale isn’t a “fun-guy” at all. The invasive critter feeds on tree sap, which paves the way for destructive fungi to invade unsuspecting trees. The resulting condition is referred to as the “Beech Bark Disease,” a growing problem in Great Lakes states.
  • Dead trees ravished by the disease are a threat to campers. Although necessary, it’s difficult and costly to remove infested trees and branches.
  • As Beech scales are feeding on tree sap, their legs become stuck to the surface. They spent their last moments tragically trapped by their own gluttony.

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