Invasive species are species that travel to new environments that they aren’t native to and which usually have no natural predators that hunt the nonnative species. Invasive species are a major problem for the environment and can cause a lot of harm. Invasive species can cause harm in many different ways such as destroying ecosystems, killing off native species, and harming human health. Also when an invasive species invades a native species habitat, it creates a challenge that the native species can not fight back against because the invasive species has no predators which throw off the cycle of that ecosystem.

Invasive species can be seen especially in Iowa in one of many major invasive plants, the Honeysuckle. These plants look like a small bush with red or orange berries, odd-shaped leaves, and pink or white flowers sprouting from them. Honeysuckle chokes out the wildlife around it by stealing nutrients these plants need to survive and covering them from sunlight. This is a big problem in our community, for example, the Elk-Horn bike trail is littered with it causing the DNR to have to try and find time to focus on getting rid of the Honeysuckle. Which leads to the DNR canceling Nature walks and events for the community that happens along that trail.

This year Exira-EHK LEO’s student Ethan Andersen decided to tackle this invasive Honeysuckle. “For my science class, my teacher put us to the task of finding a way to change our world in some form and the ideas of invasive species really appealed to me. This pushed me to research and learn about what invasive species are and I came up with a project for the Exira-EHK’s Earth day focusing on getting rid of those pesky invasive honeysuckles along the trail.” Ethan created a presentation for the FFA members that explained what invasive species were and how they affect Iowa focusing on honeysuckle so they all would know what to look for during their service project. He also worked with the Nick Preston from Iowa DNR, to find a spot to remove honeysuckle that would be the most helpful.

On Exira-EHK Earth day, May 3, a group of FFA members lead by Ethan went into action tackling the hiking trails’ honeysuckle in the Petersen Reserve. They cutting the honeysuckle bushes at the base and later on the DNR went out and to spray pesticide on them to prevent them from spreading and growing. There was a total of ten people that traveled paths of the Petersen Reserve hiking trails to removing honeysuckle invading the timber. “We made a very small dent in the hour and a half that we had to spend on it but we were able to start the project in motion,” said Ethan. In total, the amount of honeysuckle removed was roughly around 75 or so plants in an area that was the size of a football field. Hopeful the impact that we made clearing honeysuckle at Elk-Horn Creek Recreation Area will be used more for educational purposes such as nature walks. You can help prevent the spread of invasive species like honeysuckle by watching what types of plants you plant and by getting rid of any unwanted invasive plants around you.