More invasive species are coming into Guam and scientists can't keep up

On Oct. 23, 2017, Jake Manuel, a student of general entomology at the University of Guam, discovered a new butterfly species while collecting insects as a requirement for the course. The specimen, which Manuel found on a soursop leaf, had been identified as Doleschallia tongana.

“It was a new invasive species. I helped him get it identified,” said Dr. Aubrey Moore, a professor of entomology at UOG. “We contacted butterfly experts confirmed it.”

Also known as “Pacific orange leafwing butterfly,” the new species has the potential to do economic damage because it has been reported to feed on breadfruit. So far, it has not developed into a major pest on Guam.

As the region’s shipping and transport hub, Guam is a welcoming place for all planes and ships that come by. However, these crafts carry more than travelers and cargo. Invasive species find their way into Guam-bound carriers almost on a daily basis.

“Every day, we have new species coming in, but especially when they’re in cargo and produce coming from Asia or Christmas trees coming from Oregon,” said Dr. Ross Miller, a professor of Entomology at UOG, who works with Moore at the College of Natural and Applied Science.

“There’s always material coming in and a big problem that we have is that the rate of introductions has gone way up,” Miller said.