It’s been more than 40 years since “The Eggplant That Ate Chicago,” hit the American radio airwaves. Today’s eggplants don’t seem quite that aggressive, but there are many other plants and animals that are making themselves into nuisances, according to reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Wild pigs were making themselves at home along the very southern edge of the country in 1998. They were seen throughout Florida, Louisiana, about half of Texas and parts of South Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas and other southernmost states, according to the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study. By 2004, the feral swine had increased their range to include at least 39 states, with most of them found in Texas, California, Florida and Hawaii. Spanish explorers first brought swine to the United States area in the 16th century and most settlers did not keep their pigs confined. Sport hunters later released wild boars from Europe and Asia. The pigs that now roam free across the country are a mix of these wild and domestic animals, according to the U.S.D.A. These razorbacks are rooting and wallowing their way through the countryside, causing riverbanks to erode, tearing down fences and ravaging crops. They also carry diseases that can be passed along to domestic herds.
Eugene Scheifflen is credited with bringing the European starling to the United States. Scheifflen, a fan of William Shakespeare, wanted the United States to have every bird mentioned in Shakespeare’s work, according to a publication by the University of Colorado. He started with the starling in the 1890s, releasing them in New York’s Central Park. The starlings were found in Virginia by 1910. A little more than 30 years later, they reached California. While they weigh about 3 ounces each, a million of them can eat nearly 30,000 tons of livestock feed during one winter. The starlings also nibble on many crops, such as peaches, apples and corn, meant for human consumption. They can kill trees and down airplanes.
The air yam, or air potato, was added this year to the U.S.D.A.’s list of undesirable plants. These plants are found in Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Hawaii. Originally considered a potential food crop or landscaping plant, it was first noticed in Alabama in the 18th century. It creates dense vines that can kill native plants and trees as high as 60 feet.
Giant African land snails are making pests of themselves in the eastern half of the continental United States and Alaska. It is illegal to possess these snails, which sometimes have a parasite than can cause meningitis, according to information from the State of Michigan. These little guys multiply quickly, according to the same publication. A boy brought three giant African land snails into the country illegally in 1966 and they were eventually released into a Florida garden. It took seven years for those three snails to multiply to more than 18,000 snails. It took the State of Florida 10 years and $1 million to get rid of them.