Nature is such a beautiful thing — the balance it maintains through natural selection and the various ecosystems and environments it manages to keep in place.
However, these ecosystems are extremely delicate and a slight alteration can have catastrophic consequences.
Humans have been altering nature since we first stalked the savanna of Africa thousands of years ago. Sometimes with science, sometimes by accident and on occasion by adding new creatures to an area.
Let’s take a look at some of these creatures which have been introduced to North America and the resulting damage they have caused.
Here are the ten most invasive species in North America.
10 Northern Snakehead
An Asian native, the Northern Snakehead is a ferocious fish. It’s a top predator, meaning it eats virtually everything in any ecosystem its in, and it’s highly efficient.
This is why this fish has become such a problem in the US. By consuming all the smaller fish in any body of water they inhabit, the Northern Snakehead has begun to control the waters of North America.
This poses a huge risk to the ecosystems that it lives in as they become filled with more and more snakeheads but less and less other fish.
The Northern Snakehead originally came here for the purpose of domestication and food. They make pretty cool looking pets, and they’re actually part of many Asian cuisines.
But they wound up becoming a danger to all other American fish and as a result are considered to be one of the most invasive species on the continent.
9 European Starling
These little black birds are very widely known for their iridescent green sheen.
You’ve probably seen them many times before as they’re one of the most common birds around. They weren’t always around North America though.
Back in 1890, when people knew far less about nature and the environment, someone thought it would be a great idea to introduce all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s writings to America. Over the past century they’ve grown in population to an estimated 150 million or more.
This makes them compete with the local birds for food, at which they often win simply due to increased numbers, and drive other birds out of their habitats.
Starlings are also considered pests because they’re noisy and create large amounts of waste and message across the continent.
So while these birds certainly are cute, they’re also terrible for our ecosystems.
8 Killer Bees
Africanized bees, widely known as killer bees due to their aggressiveness, have only recently started to invade North America but their presence is one that has dire consequences.
Originally brought to America by Brazilian scientists who were looking to breed them with Brazilian honey bees, some escaped and began spreading across the continent at an alarming rate.
While these bees don’t necessarily threaten typical honey bees too much, they do threaten other wildlife. Because they’re so aggressive and they attack in swarms, Africanized bees have been reported to have killed people and animals alike without their hive even being disturbed.
This makes them an extremely dangerous insect, and one we should carefully monitor as it further invades our ecosystems.
7 Water Hyacinth
This water growing flower is known for its beautiful lavender flowers as well as its ability to reproduce to astronomical proportions.
Their reproduction has lead to many problems in the US as they block rivers and streams, causing problems at dams and making many rivers completely unusable. This leads to the government employing many workers simply to keep the populations of this plant at a minimum.
It was introduced sometime in the 1800s as an ornamental plant and because of how quickly it grows it spread like wildfire.
However, its growth in the US causes more than just a problem for rivers and dams, but for fish as well.
Because it covers so much of the surface of the water and reproduces so quickly, water hyacinth can actually block oxygen from getting to the water and make the water below them uninhabitable.
6 Burmese Python
One of the scariest types of species to invade would have to be enormous reptiles.
A Burmese python may give you the chills just thinking about it, but when you realize that they’re in fact invading the ecosystems of North America they become even more terrifying.
Likely the result of people’s escaped or released pets, Burmese pythons are becoming a regular site in Florida where they endanger alligator populations as well as other wildlife.
Marsh rabbits are especially threatened as they’ve become the primary snack for these enormous and voracious snakes.
One of their biggest advantages though is that they can survive for months on end without eating, giving them an edge in survival if their food supplies ever begin dwindling.
One might not have assumed that a vine could be an invasive species.
However, these vines are extremely aggressive. Yes, that’s right, aggressive vines. They grow rapidly, carpeting everything nearby in a thick vine-y mess. This makes it difficult for other plants to survive as it will often cover them completely and kill them.
Originally from Asia, Kudzu was introduced to the US in 1935 when it was promoted in order to reduce the erosion of soil.
However, it began spreading so fast that it quickly became a problem.
The biggest issue with Kudzu is that the only way to eliminate it is to go straight for the roots which are extremely plentiful. Because of how fast it grows it can be extremely difficult to root it all out at once.
Even cut vines can actually grow new roots if left unattended and it’s actually advised to destroy all remaining plant matter after it has been cut.
4 Brown Tree Snake
Another invasive snake in North America is the brown tree snake.
While this one is far smaller than the previously mentioned python, it’s not any less dangerous. In fact, its venom makes it perhaps more dangerous.
Introduced after World War II from Guam, this snake has found its way across the pacific on freighter ships carrying cargo.
The infestation has become so bad in many places that the government of Guam has declared the snake a threat to their security and has their department of defense looking for ways to control their population.
In the US they have very limited predators and they prey on almost everything. This makes for a terrible ecological balance and causes them to often dominate the food chain.
They’re also incredibly fast breeders and as such can maintain a massive population while also eating most small animals. This means they post an enormous threat to most wildlife in North America.
3 Zebra Mussel
First detected in the late 1980s, zebra mussels are one of the most well known invasive species in America.
By dominating the water with enormous colonies, they threaten fish species as well as plant life as their colonies make it very difficult for plants to grow in the waters where they reside.
It’s thought that the way they were introduced is by seafaring ships which had docked in the Black Sea, their natural habitat. By attaching themselves to the hull of the ship, zebra mussels are thought to have literally hitched a ride across the ocean to America where they began taking over.
They’re extremely problematic for most wildlife and businesses as well. It’s estimated that over $5 billion has been spent cleaning these pests from underwater pipes and infrastructure since their invasion began.
2 Asian Long-horned Beetle
This little beetle creates far larger problems than you could ever imagine.
Originating from China and Korea, the Asian long-horn beetle has made its way west by travelling on board cargo ships carrying goods from Asia.
The primary problem with this beetle is that it eats Maple, Elm, Poplar and Willow trees, destroying the natural environment around them. They’re so effective at eliminating these trees that even in Asia where they’re from, they’re considered to be a dangerous pest.
However, at least in Asia they have predators while here they do not. This becomes extremely problematic because the only way to prevent them from destroying all our trees is to go out and stop them ourselves!
They are considered to be one of the most dangerous invasive species in North America, not because the beetles themselves are dangerous but because of the threat they pose to the ecological order.
1 Asian Carp
The most invasive species in North America is in fact the Asian carp.
Unfortunately, they weren’t introduced here by accident, being brought here from Asia in order to control algae levels as well as other underwater plants. Since their introduction however, they’ve essentially taken over the waterways of North America.
By some estimates they constitute more than half of the 50% of the fish populations in many rivers and lakes, and in many cases they’ve fully routed out several native species.
The biggest threat comes in a combination of two factors: their insatiable appetite and their rapid reproduction. The Asian carp is perhaps one of the most efficient fish around when it comes to eating plankton and reproducing. This makes it extremely difficult for the other fish in an ecosystem to even compete with them, which results in the native fish species dying off.
Another problem however, is that they often carry parasites which are also not native to North America. When these parasites spread to native fish they can kill vast swathes of their population instantly while the Asian carp – immune or resistant to these parasites – is only mildly affected.
Stop the invasion
Invasive species are not a new concept by any stretch. They’ve been documented quite well over the past century, but as we learn more about the ecological order we notice their grave impact more and more. That’s why what we once thought to be a minor inconvenience has actually turned out to be something which threatens our environment.
Check this site where government officials have information about how to prevent the spread of these species and what to do if you see an increasing amount of them. So, let’s all work together and do our part to stop these massive invasions!
Have you encountered any of these invasive species? Let us know your experiences in the comments.