Shhh… be very, very quiet, we’re hunting zebra mussels.
Zebra mussels are an invasive species in many regions surrounded by the Great Lakes in North America. They are invasive because they aren’t naturally part of those ecosystems and although they flourish in their new home, it’s at the cost of the other living organisms in the area.
Zebra mussels starve native plants, fish and other living things out of their home, and because they essentially take over – invade – their new found area, the population grows out of control. Because of their hard shells and their invasive nature, they even have an impact on human populations. They have clogged municipal water systems and turned once popular summer swimming holes into empty beaches because their shells cut our feet.
So hunting zebra mussels, or any invasive species, is serious business.
But what if you don’t know what a zebra mussel looks like, or even what to do if you find them?
If you’ve got a smartphone, you can be an invasive species hunter. Yes, there’s an app for that – and it works on both Android and Apple devices.
Bugwood Apps, an American company based in Tifton, Georgia, has created a slew of high-tech apps to measure and monitor forests, natural resources, and to help even the most amateur invasive species hunter track their prey.
As invasive species vary by geographic regions, they have created different apps for different parts of North America and for different uses of those natural environments, for example, farming versus municipal species management.
The company’s Great Lakes Vegetables app is used by farmers to identify and rid their crops of invasive species which will feed on those veggies, before they make it to your kitchen table. It’s primarily used by sweet corn farmers to keep pests off of their kernels.
Invasive species even can affect what you wear. They have an app – the GA Cotton Insect Advisor – which helps American cotton growers deal with stink bug, which feeds on the plants, preventing them from producing the natural soft cloth used in cozy sweaters, socks and other clothing items.
They even have an app which helps farmers and other natural resource managers keep wild pigs from eating their crops and just about everything else in sight. It’s called the Squeal on Pigs app.
The company is working with national and local governments to stop the spread of invasive species.
They are working with the American government’s National Park Service, and created the Great Lakes Early Detection Network (GLEDN) app, which is being used as an early detection and warning system for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to keep invasive species out of those fresh water bodies.
Local municipalities are using the company’s technologies to teach their citizens to become expert invasive species hunters.
“Preventing invasive species from arriving and becoming established in Ontario is critical in our fight against this growing threat,” said David Orazietti, Ontario’s Minister of Natural Resources. “The app will serve as a key prevention tool, helping Ontario to detect and track the spread of invasive species.”
There are lots of invasive species – Ontario’s app tracks over 150 of them – and helps people identify them using either an Android or Apple smartphone, with colorful images and detailed descriptions.
But once you’ve spotted the invasive species, what do you do?
These apps provide useful information to novice and experienced invasive species hunters. From reporting invasive species spotting to local and national governments, to what and when to use to get rid of them, to how to prevent them from invading your turf in the first place.
In the case of zebra mussels, simply hosing off the bottom of your boat and draining any excess water from it before entering another water body will prevent the spread of this particular invasive species. They often hitch rides on unsuspecting boaters watercraft.
Residents of Ontario, Canada, can go to eddmaps.org/ontario to learn about invasive species in the province, and to download the latest versions of the Android and Apple smartphone apps for spotting and tracking of these invasive species.
To learn how to hunt invasive species in your area, check out the company’s list of apps: apps.bugwood.org/apps.html