What are invasive species?

Though the natural world doesn’t follow man-made borders, every species on earth has somewhere it originated from, and places where it would throw off the natural balance. The term “invasive species” describes any plant, animal, pathogen, fish, or bug which is non-native to the ecosystem, and also causes harm when it is introduced. An invasive species can be introduced in many different ways, but one of the main causes is human activity.

Invasive species are constantly monitored across Nebraska to manage and mitigate the damage they cause, as well as to manage the influx of new species.

What damage do they do?

What is the big deal about invasive species? Invasive species actively cause harm to not just the environment, but public health, the economy, and social activities. 

Environmental Effects

  • Invasive species can compete with native species for habitat and resources. 
  • Invasive insects or plants can actively damage native habitats, plants, and trees.
  • Invasives can permanently alter the ecosystem and degrade the habitat they are introduced to, damaging native species.

Economic and Social Effects

  • It is estimated that the US loses nearly $120 billion annually due to invasive species. 
  • The USFWS estimates that the agricultural industry loses $13 billion annually due to invasive insects alone. 
  • The presence of invasive species can shut down and damage recreational areas.

Health Effects

  • Invasive species can carry new and dangerous diseases, or provide incubation for existing diseases.
  • Invasives can also make areas less healthy for other species in the area, or cause diseases to spread to native populations.

Nebraska Invasives

Nebraska has its fair share of invasive species, both potential and established. Below are some common established invasive species listed by the Nebraska Invasive Species Program. This website also shows future and potential invasive species, listing some as high priority for reporting to the state.

List of established invasive aquatics

Established Invasive Aquatics: Aquatic invasive species can exist in both freshwater and saltwater conditions. They can attach themselves to water vessels, and are generally moved through human activity.

  1. Always thoroughly clean watercraft after you’ve finished using it.
  2. Do not release pets such as snails or fish into the wild.

Established Invasive Animals: Invasive animals include mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates. These animals are either introduced through human activity, such as intentional introduction for pest control. 

  1. Do not release pets into the wild! 
  2. Report sightings of animals that are invasive, and contact local authorities for guidance. 
List of established invasive animals
List of known invasive bugs

Known Invasive Bugs: Invasive insects typically are found in tiny crevices of a hiker’s gear or shoes, on pets, or hiding in firewood. Because they are small, they can easily go unnoticed and be introduced into a new habitat.

  1. Always check your clothes, pets, shoes, and gear after going out in a natural area.
  2. Don’t move firewood once you have it, to prevent the spread of insects like the emerald ash borer.

Established Invasive Pathogens, Viruses, and Diseases: Invasive pathogens, viruses, and diseases spread through water or other invasive species. Their existence can ripple through and decimate ecosystems and other species

  1. Don’t “pack a pest” – clean your equipment such as shoes, boats, and hiking gear, and toss out food before traveling between natural areas. 
  2. Report any sightings or symptoms of known pathogens immediately, to prevent further spread.
List of known invasive pathogens
List of established invasive plants

Established Invasive Plants: Invasive plants are typically spread in seeded form through animal droppings, human activity, or by “hitchhiking” on anything moving. Typically, by producing large amounts of seed, they spread quickly, and they tend to degrade soil, as well as smother other plants around them.


  1. Avoid noxious weed or invasive infected areas. If you do enter these areas, clean your equipment, pets, and clothing thoroughly. 
  2. Do not take home flowers which you cannot identify. 
  3. Try to plant native in your garden.

Nebraska Groups

Many groups in Nebraska are committed to the mitigation and management of invasive species. Here are some resources for more information about invasive species in Nebraska.

Sarah McLain

Sarah McLain

AmeriCorps Conservation Director

To contact Sarah, email her at smclain@neconserve.org