Stop the Invasion: Unwanted Plants, Bugs and Other Pests

Penn State Extension and Pennsylvania 4-H, with funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, created Stop the Invasion: Unwanted Plants, Bugs and Other Pests, a hands-on curriculum to address the threat of invasive species.

Pennsylvania 4-H’ers, from left, Jayden Dennis, Sophia Manidis, and Jadyn Heck-Hoppes identify invasive species. (Photo courtesy of Deborah Dietrich)

Pennsylvania 4-H’ers, from left, Jayden Dennis, Sophia Manidis, and Jadyn Heck-Hoppes identify invasive species. (Photo courtesy of Deborah Dietrich)

This project provides hands-on and interactive curriculum to address the threat of invasive pests while making learning fun.

Lessons in this curriculum feature current pests affecting Keystone State farmers, families, and the environment. Many of these pests also affect other states in the Mid-Atlantic region and across the United States. It can be used in school classrooms, nature centers, camps, scouting programs, or any youth education setting, in addition to use by 4-H members and clubs.

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is the home of 4-H National Headquarters, which provides national program leadership to 4-H programs around the country.

Using experiential and inquiry-based learning practices featured by the National 4-H program, youth can expand their knowledge and discover the role they can play in surveillance, management, and eradication of destructive plants and animals. Stop the Invasion is especially useful for groups seeking educational opportunities that lead to community service and action projects. Each lesson in the book aligns with current educational standards.

You don’t need to be an expert to lead the activities in this book. Each lesson in the Stop the Invasion 4-H project has all of the necessary background information and guidance. The target audience for this curriculum is middle-school aged youth. Each lesson, however, is adaptable for younger and older audiences.

Throughout the curriculum, readers will find five case studies of invasive species of concern in Pennsylvania. They include the spotted lanternfly, allium leafminer, the yellow fever and Asian tiger mosquitos that carry Zika virus, feral swine, and hydrilla. Stop the Invasion also addresses opportunities for youth to participate in citizen science by identifying and reporting invasive species in their local communities.

Stop the Invasion is a critical curriculum because, according to USDA, invasive pests—which include foreign insects, weeds, and even larger animals like fish, birds and mammals—are the second greatest threat to biological diversity, after habitat loss. Invasive species also impact lives and economy. Some of these pests are simple nuisances, while others can have devastating financial impacts. In 2011, Mid-Atlantic farmers suffered more than $37 million in apple damages from the invasive brown marmorated stink bug. In 2014, the spotted lanternfly was detected as a new threat to the Pennsylvania’s $20.5 million grape, $134 million apple, and $24 million peach and plum industries. The state’s $12 billion hardwood industry is also at risk.

Everyone can play an important role in stopping the spread of invasive species, and Stop the Invasion is a great way to start.

NIFA invests in and advances agricultural research, education, and extension and seeks to make transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges. To learn more about NIFA’s impact on agricultural science, visit www.nifa.usda.gov/impacts, sign up for email updates, or follow us on Twitter @usda_NIFA, #NIFAimpacts.

By Jennifer Fetter, Renewable Natural Resources Educator, Penn State Extension