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Big Problem in the Big Easy: Invasive Cuban Treefrogs Move into Louisiana

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Louisiana is now home to one more frog species, and that's a problem. According to Popular Science, scientists have found invasive Cuban treefrogs at a New Orleans zoo, marking the first toehold the amphibians have been able to make in the U.S. outside of Florida.

Cuban treefrogs are native to Cuba, the Cayman Islands, and the Bahamas, but they came to the U.S. in the 1920s by way of the Florida Keys. They have since spread as far north as Jacksonville. The massive frogs—females can grow up to 6 inches long—are major pests, hunting several species of native Floridian frogs and out-competing others, clogging drains and setting up camp in toilets, and occasionally causing power outages when they decide to hide in utility boxes.

Now, the species is showing up in New Orleans, more than 430 miles away. They may have stowed away on a 2016 shipment of palm trees from Lake Placid, Florida bound for the elephant exhibit at New Orleans's Audubon Zoo.

A U.S. Geological Survey in the fall of 2017 captured hundreds of the frogs on and around the zoo's grounds. Over the course of four surveys, USGS scientists found 367 frogs and 2000 Cuban treefrog tadpoles. They drained the two pools where the tadpoles were swimming in the hopes of killing off any they missed, but the likelihood of reversing the spread of the frogs is low. The USGS warned in a recent press statement that "eradicating the recently discovered population in Louisiana is improbable." The frogs reproduce quickly and will eat almost anything. Based on the results of these surveys, it seems they have already driven out all the native frogs in Riverview, the section of Audubon Park where the tadpoles were found.

Brad Glorioso, the lead USGS ecologist on the study, explained that while stowaway treefrogs have trouble surviving when they make their way to higher latitudes, the climate around New Orleans seems to be more hospitable to them. "They often end up in places with unsuitable climates, but in south Louisiana, Cuban treefrogs appear capable of withstanding seasonal cold spells by seeking appropriate refuge," he said.

For now, the best scientists can hope for is keeping the frogs from moving across the river from the zoo into one of the large public nature preserves nearby.

[h/t Popular Science]

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Health
Watch a Tree Release a Massive "Pollen Bomb" Into the Air
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In case your itchy, watery eyes hadn't already tipped you off, spring is in the air. Some trees release up to a billion pollen grains apiece each year, and instead of turning into baby trees, many of those spores end up in the noses of allergy sufferers. For a visual of just how much pollen is being released into our backyards, check out the video below spotted by Gothamist.

This footage was captured by Millville, New Jersey resident Jennifer Henderson while her husband was clearing away brush with a backhoe. He noticed one tree was blanketed in pollen, and decided to bump into it to see what would happen. The result was an explosion of plant matter dramatic enough to make you sniffle just by looking at it.

"Pollen bombs" occur when the weather starts to warm up after a prolonged winter, prompting trees and grasses to suddenly release a high concentration of pollen in a short time span. Wind, temperature, and humidity levels all determine the air's pollen count for any given day, but allergy season settles down around May.

After determining that your congestion is the result of allergies and not a head cold, there are a few steps you can take to stave off symptoms before they appear. Keep track of your area's pollen report throughout the week, and treat yourself with antihistamines or nasal spray on days when you know it will be particularly bad outside. You can also keep your home a pollen-free zone by closing all the windows and investing in an air purifier. Check out our full list of seasonal allergy-fighting tips here.

[h/t Gothamist]

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environment
The UK Wants to Ban Wet Wipes, And Parents Aren't Happy About It
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The United Kingdom has grown determined in recent years to reduce consumption of single-use products that pollute the environment. In April, fast food restaurant fans were dismayed to hear that plastic drinking straws are being phased out; plastic cotton swabs are also on the chopping block. Now, users of wet wipes that remove makeup and clean infant bottoms are looking at a future where reaching for one of the disposable cloths may not be so easy.

The BBC reports that wet wipes containing non-biodegradable plastic are being targeted for elimination in the coming years. The wipes contribute to “fatbergs,” giant impactions of waste that can slow or block movement in sewage systems. By some estimates, 93 percent of blockages are caused by consumers flushing the wet wipes into toilets despite package instructions to throw them in the garbage.

Not everyone is backing the move, however. Jeremy Freedman, who manufactures the wipes under the name Guardpack, says that the wipes are useful to health care workers and food preparation employees. He argues their use also conserves water normally reserved for handwashing.

The most vocal critics might be parents, who use the wipes to clean their baby’s bottom following a diaper change. Sentiments like “ban the fools that flush them!” are circulating on Twitter. The UK is looking to phase out the wipes and other problematic plastic products over the next 25 years.

[h/t BBC]

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