Campus News

Karen Rawlins: ‘Super invader’

Karan Rawlins, who works in the entomology department at UGA’s Tifton campus, was quoted in a article about a flea beetle that may be able to stop an invading tree in the South.

The tallow tree is a “super invader” with toxic leaves and no natural enemies in North America. It has overtaken forests from Texas to Florida. Tallows grow three times faster than most native hardwoods, and each one casts off 100,000 seeds a year. Neither controlled burns nor herbicide sprays have stopped their advance, and cutting them down only works when each stump is immediately doused with chemicals. Some scientists believe that introducing a flea beetle from the tallow’s native habitat in eastern China may stop the tallow from advancing.

“Chinese tallows are very competitive, and they have no natural predators here like in their native China,” said Rawlins, who is the invasive species coordinator for the Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health. “Very few if any insects recognize it as a food source, so it has basically become a super invader.”