3 invasive species in Kentucky that cause human pain and misery

Anita Durairaj

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An invasive species is an organism that causes ecological or economic harm in a new environment where it is not native. - National Ocean Service

An invasive species can be an animal, a plant, an organism, bacteria, virus or any living being that causes any type of harm.

There are several lists of invasive species for Kentucky. From those lists, there are a few species that stand out as being especially harmful to humans. These species cause direct illness, pain and suffering in humans.

An invasive species may bring in new diseases or be a vector for diseases. Some species may also be directly harmful to humans even if they are not disease-causing.

Here are 3 invasive species in Kentucky that cause human illness, pain or misery:

Imported Fire Ants

Imported Fire Ants (IFA) have been found in the Purchase Area of Kentucky. The IFA ants include the Black Imported Fire Ant (BIFA) and the Red Imported Fire Ant (RIFA).

Both types of fire ants were originally found in South America and then moved into the U.S in the 1940s.

Both BIFA and RIFA have been found in Kentucky.

They can sting a human repeatedly causing painful blisters. Their venom produces a burning sensation. Fire ants attack people and animals.

West Nile Virus

This is a mosquito-borne virus that causes disease in humans. The disease symptoms are fever, body aches, vomiting, diarrhea, and fatigue.

The West Nile Virus may be a real problem in Kentucky. Most recently, in August 2021, mosquitos in Louisville were found to be carrying the West Nile Virus. The disease can impact both humans and animals (especially horses).

The West Nile Virus is native to Africa and Asia. It was introduced into the United States in 1999.

Poison Hemlock

Poison hemlock also called conium maculatum is poisonous to all mammals that eat it. Poisoning can occur after ingesting any part of the plant.

Poison Hemlock was introduced into the U.S. from Europe as a garden plant. People thought its flowers were really attractive. Now poison hemlock is found throughout the U.S.

It is widespread in Kentucky and the danger is that people are mistaking the plant for more harmless species.

Sources: National Invasive Species Information Center, Richmond Register, Mayo Clinic, Kentucky Forage News

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