These 6 Invasive Species Are Destroying SC Wildlife


Adult black and white tegu lizard.


Chances are if you come across a wild pig you’ll immediately think of danger, so this creature doesn’t belong here, even though it’s been in South Carolina for generations.

They were brought over by the Spaniards in the 1500s and have torn the landscape ever since, slowly carving their way from the coast to the plains to the mountains.

They are everywhere.

But many other animals not native to South Carolina wreak havoc wherever they go, boring into trees, eating vegetables and attacking native species.

Here are a few to look for.

brown marmorated stink bug

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This bug, first observed in 1998 in Allentown, Pennsylvania, is now present in 41 states and part of Canada. Jon Storm Provided

Clemson University’s College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences puts it this way: These insects were a pest in China and they’re a bigger pest here.

These bugs harm fruit trees, legumes, corn, garden vegetables and some ornamental plants. And then when winter comes, they come inside.

And as you can imagine from their name, when disturbed, they give off an odor that some people compare to skunk, burnt trees, or cilantro.

The stink bug was first seen in 1998 in Allentown, Pennsylvania (accidental introduction, like many other invasive species) and then spread across the country.

Island snail

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Island snail eggs can carry rat lungworm, a parasite that can cause meningitis in humans. SCDNR Provided

This snail can reach 6 inches long with a spiral shell and bands of yellow, black, tan and brown. Their beauty is probably what has attracted people who keep aquariums. But then they let go.

Jon Storm, a biologist from the University of South Carolina in the upstate, said they were first seen in the wild in Myrtle Beach in 2008. They attach their eggs – clusters of up to 2,000 at a time – on vegetables and tree trunks.

Storm said snail eggs can carry rat lungworm, a parasite that can cause meningitis in humans.

“Don’t touch the egg masses,” Storm said.

Asian longhorned beetle

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The Asian longhorned beetle was found in 2021 by an owner in Hollywood, South Carolina Clemson University Provided

This insect feeds on all kinds of trees dear to South Carolina – maple, ash, poplar, sycamore, willow, elm and birch. They burrow into the trunk and stop the flow of sap, leaving holes the size of a finger.

It was first discovered last year by a homeowner in Hollywood, South Carolina. An inspector from the Department of Plant Industry at Clemson University visited the property and found at least four infested maple trees and captured live beetles.

It is also in Ohio, New York and Massachusetts, which are thought to have been brought to the United States by freighters. So far, the longhorned beetle has been eradicated in New Jersey and Illinois.

Argentinian black and white tegu

A particularly ugly lizard, this invader will eat anything, Will Dillman, the South Carolina department’s wildlife chief, told The State last year.

This includes all kinds of eggs, from birds to alligators.

People bought them as pets, and then as they reached their adult size – up to 4 feet – people sent them off to fend for themselves. And they breed.

South Carolina wildlife officials said the lizard’s ever-growing population has become a concern in 2020. Florida and Georgia already have a problem with them.

“With tegus, we know introductions happen, so we try to keep it from becoming established,” Dillman said.

They have been seen in various parts of the state, including Richland and Lexington counties.

Last year, South Carolina banned the black and white Argentine tegu and required owners to register their pets with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

Storm said if you find one, don’t try to pick it up. It has a rather nasty bite. The Department of Natural Resources should be your first call.

Maybe headed our way, the Spotted Lanternfly

Voracious. Leafhopper. Eat over 100 plants – fruit, ornamental and woody trees.

He was first seen in 2014 in Pennsylvania and jumped on all kinds of vehicles to head south, as close as North Carolina.

It came from Southeast Asia and prefers the Tree of Heaven, also an invasive species and also in South Carolina. But that’s not an advantage because the Spotted Lanternfly just isn’t that picky. She also likes grapes, hops. almonds, apples, apricots, cherries, peaches, plums, nectarines, maples, oaks, yellow poplars, sycamores, walnuts and willows.

It’s also kind of gross because it excretes massive amounts of sticky honeydew that can get to people.

Do Not Touch: Lionfish

Lionfish have disrupted marine food webs and native marine ecosystems along the East Coast. Scientists are trying to find out where the invasive species was introduced. Facebook screenshot

This beauty has long been a star in home aquariums, but is now found in the deep ocean and rocky reefs. They are often seen by divers and caught by anglers who hunt marlin, dolphin, wahoo and yellowfin tuna.

These fish eagerly seek out and consume game fish.

The lionfish’s home base is the Indo-Pacific region, Storm said.

But here’s a catch; their spine contains a toxin similar to that of a cobra. If you touch it, the sting probably won’t kill you, but it will definitely hurt you. As in stabbing pain, swelling, bleeding and numbness.

If you catch one, Storm said, don’t throw it back.

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