Water chestnut. Emerald ash borer. Hemlock woolly adelgid. Spotted lanternfly. Giant hogweed. Japanese knotweed. Kudzu. Wild parsnip.

Those are but a few of the scores of invasive species that have been found in New York, many of which have been found in our area.

We are in the midst of the state’s sixth annual Invasive Species Awareness Week, which will run through Saturday, July 13.

The week features events that encourage New Yorkers to help protect the state’s resources from the negative impacts of invasive species, according to a media release by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. This year’s theme is “Early Detection: Explore, Observe, Report.”

An invasive species is one that has been introduced to a non-native location that can negatively impact human health, native biodiversity and the economy. They can be introduced intentionally, for example when non-native plants sold at a nursery escape a garden, or unintentionally, ie. an insect transported in a crate or in firewood.

Higher temperatures and changes in rain and snow patterns enable some invasive plant species to move into new areas. Many invasive species can adapt more quickly than native species to higher latitudes and altitudes as the climate warms, according to International Union for Conservation of Nature’s website.

The Otsego County Conservation Association and the Catskill Center in Arkville were among the organizations offering events in conjunction with Invasive Species Awareness Week.

“We have a series of activities and events that are educational in nature, but also provide people the opportunity to get hands-on invasive species management,”  OCCA Program Director Jeff O’Handley said before the week began.

Fighting invasives has been a long-term program. For more than a decade, OCCA has been hosting events to hand-pull water chestnuts from the upper portion of Goodyear Lake. 

One invasive that has been getting a lot of attention recently is giant hogweed, which was found in the area four years ago. The plant, which looks like Queen Anne’s lace on steroids, can cause burns — and even blindness — to those who touch it. The state Department of Environmental Conservation is making progress in its 12-year fight against the dangerous plant, officials said. Commissioner Basil Seggos said the program has eradicated the plants from 623 sites and another 448 sites are being monitored.

One of the newest invasives to come up on the local radar is the spotted lanternfly. The first of the insects in New York was found in Delaware County about a year and a half ago. It was was found dead between packing material in a shipping pallet delivered to an industrial manufacturing facility in the village of Hobart. Officials said because of where the insect was found, it likely entered the state dead and did not lay eggs. They have not invaded the state as of yet, according to officials, but they are found in Pennsylvania.  

They are most attracted to ailanthus, an invasive tree species, but the insect poses a threat to agricultural crops such as grapes, hops and apples, which represent a large part of the farming industry in New York. State Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball, a Schoharie County native, said in a statement in 2017 that the spotted lanternfly “can wreak havoc on some of our state’s largest and economically important crops.”

This week is important to raise awareness, but we all must be vigilant all the time about fighting these invaders that can damage our landscape, our economy and ourselves. 

For more information on invasive species, visit https://www.nyimapinvasives.org