Michigan is surrounded by Superior, Huron, Erie, and Michigan Lakes. The Great Lakes are the natural ecosystem where many invasive plants, fish, and mussels are found.
The state is also home to invasive mammals, beetles, and snails. These can be found in gardens, crops, and on farmland.
Some of the most common invasive species in Michigan have European, Asian, and South American origins.
Invasive Animals of Michigan
1. Asian Longhorned Beetle
The Asian Longhorned Beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis) is one of the typical invasive species in Michigan.
Native to Asia, this species has been confirmed in North America just 2 decades ago where it spread from the East Coast to Michigan.
These types of beetles have further been noted to affect trees such as birch, willow, elm, maple, and poplar.
It has a black body, white spots on its wings, and antennae that are longer than its body.
One of the first measures to control its infestation is to introduce local quarantine which stops its spread.
This species (Rhodeus sericeus) originates in Europe and Siberia. It’s a small type of fish that only grows to a few inches.
It relies on mussels which it impacts to a high level given it lays eggs in them. These fish are mussels parasites.
Bitterling also represents a more adaptive species compared to local populations. It can live in water with a reduced oxygenation level and in areas where algae are present in higher percentages.
These species cannot survive in state waters without mussels.
3. Garden Snail
An introduced species in the state and around the world, Garden Snails (Cornu aspersum) are an agricultural pest and a garden pest. They can sometimes be the most numerous garden pests in the season.
Vines, citruses, and legumes are among the foods they eat and impact the garden.
It also feeds on fruit trees, flowers, and most types of cereals.
Snails are subject to continuous research in management techniques. On crops and farms, pesticides prove efficient.
These types of snails might be repelled by more natural solutions such as garlic or coffee. Copper bands are added as a barrier against Garden Snails which hate copper.
4. Bighead Carp
Bighead Carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis) are native to China. They have been introduced around the world and they have an invasive species in most locations.
While these fish reproduce and increase the number of fish you can catch in an area, they aren’t eaten outside certain ethnic communities in Michigan.
Known as filter feeders, they can only eat small organisms in the water that cannot swim.
These fish are a common choice in some fish farms but they drive out many native species in the state.
With an invasive nature, this species is as detrimental to North American and Michigan populations as Silver Carp.
5. Black Carp
The area of the Great Lakes has been invaded by what is generically known as a group of Asian Carp.
Black Carp (Mylopharyngodon piceus) is among these invasive species and their presence here has been documented for more than 5 decades.
A highly invasive nature that reduces local fish populations is specific to this species.
While seen as good farm fish, Black Carp isn’t a primary species for consumption in Michigan.
Furthermore, its breeding dependence on mollusks also poses a threat to local mollusks which are already in critical condition due to reduced numbers year after year.
6. Grass Carp
Some of the prevalent invasive species in the state’s freshwaters are the Asia Grass Carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella).
Fishermen know the species for putting up a good fight when hooked. They also identify it by its oblique mouth as opposed to the horizontal mouth opening of other Asian Carp.
Grass Carp is a herbivorous species which has been the main reason for its introduction around the world as a species that controls weeds.
However, it also impacts the local ecosystem which makes it an invasive species.
Around the world, Grass Carp is believed to be one of the species with the most representative numbers in fish farming.
7. Silver Carp
Silver Carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) is one of the introduced filter fish in Michigan. It’s a species that is caught with different techniques compared to the classic bait on a hook method due to its filtering feeding habits.
Introduced from Asia, this is an invasive species that is almost impossible to control in its introduced areas today.
Eating these types of fish is not recommended. They eat different algae in freshwater and absorb much of their toxins.
This is why eating Silver Carp isn’t recommended in many areas it has established in.
8. Carthusian Snail
This type of snail (Monacha cartusiana) is one of the relatively-new invasive species in Michigan after its confirmation around Detroit.
The species has a Southern European origin and can be distinguished by its nearly white shells which make it look quite different from other garden snails.
It impacts crops and gardens in the state across multiple species. Furthermore, Carthusian Snails are also disease-spread vectors.
They spread diseases such as sheep’s lungworm parasites which are known to cause inflammatory respiratory issues in local cattle and sheep.
9. Eurasian Collared Dove
Eurasian Collared Doves (Streptopelia decaocto) are now established in North America and Michigan. Higher populations are found in Southern US territories, on the other hand.
This is a large species with a wingspan of up to 22 inches.
Some studies say it shows a more aggressive nature compared to native species while others say it has the same levels of aggression.
Established over the past few decades, this species reduces food availability to local doves and it also shows higher reproductive rates.
It can be found all around cities and areas where people live, feeding on seeds and insects.
Ruffe (Gymnocephalus cernuus) is one of the invasive species in Lake Superior which is known to outcompete local fish for food.
This species also has higher reproductive rates compared to other fish in the lake.
Ruffe fish represents an introduced species that are also sharper in avoiding predators. It detects water motion and vibration better, which means it can also make quicker escapes compared to local fish.
It’s also believed Ruffe fish are also adaptable and show little impact on environmental changes compared to native fish.
This species lives for a few years, growing up to a length of 8 inches.
11. Giant African Snail
This type of snail (Lissachatina fulica) is one of the most damaging invasive snails in the state. It eats plants and even other materials and it also spreads plant pathogens.
Confirmed Giant African Snail areas should enter quarantine as these snails can spread human diseases as well.
This is a species that can be found in inhabited areas and it may even be spotted seeing materials used for home construction.
Stucco is one of the materials eaten by the snail, together with typical plants, legumes, and fruits in the garden.
Some cultures around the world cook and eat the Giant African Snail.
12. Girdled Snail
This dark type of snail (Hygromia cinctella) comes from Europe. Native to The Mediterranean, it has been introduced to North America where it spread to Michigan.
Gardens are among the most common habitats of the species. High moisture and plenty of food make this snail a growing presence around homes.
It can be distinguished by its darker shell and by the conical shape of its shell.
The main problem with the species is that it always aggregates in large numbers in a small area, which means it causes significant ecosystem impact quickly.
14. Golden Mussel
Golden Mussels (Limnoperna fortunei) have an Asian origin and an invasive status in Michigan lakes.
There are multiple reasons why this species is detrimental, including the capacity to alter water purity levels.
High numbers of mussels on the bottom of lakes also change the natural climate of local waters.
Golden Mussels spread rapidly and they also attach themselves to ships and machinery such as large water treatment facilities.
Power plants are among the most affected by this rapid spread of species. While they only live up to 2 years, Golden Mussels reach sexual maturity fast which means they also mate fast.
Few control methods prove efficient once the species has established itself in a water source.
15. Heath Snail
Heath Snails (Xerolenta obvia) are a species found in rocky areas of the state, meadows, and gardens.
A white shell with a circular stripe is characteristic of this species which eats local plants.
High numbers of Heath Snails are found in small areas. However, seeing these snails is not easy as they only come out after it rains.
High reproduction rates are specific to these snails, as with many invasive species. They can lay clusters of up to 40 eggs at once.
Heath Snails are also known to survive the cold winters of the state as some of them may even reach a lifespan of up to 3 years.
Ide (Leuciscus idus) is a type of fish imported to the United States. It has a long history in North America that goes back 100 years.
This species hasn’t adapted to all of its introduced areas but small populations might still exist in Michigan.
Fished for food, this is considered an ornamental type of fish in some parts of Europe and US ponds.
In certain cases, it has escaped captivity establishing small populations in streams and rivers.
The fish primarily feeds on insects and it’s one of the recognized species that can be caught in fly fishing.
17. Pond Loach
Pond Loaches (Misgurnus anguillicaudatus) are native to Asia. This is a species that inhabits the bottoms of lakes and ponds and is identified by its long eel-like body.
This species is seen in different colors in the state, ranging from pink to olive.
It can be found feeding on snails and it may reach a length of up to 12 inches with sufficient food.
Some of these fish are never seen as they burrow into the soil to hide their heads in front of predators or as a means of protection.
18. Killer Shrimp
Killer Shrimp (Dikerogammarus villosus) is known to displace local populations fast. They do this in all introduced habitats.
High multiplication rate, a period of only 1 month to reach sexual maturity, and high adaptability make the species dangerous.
Killer Shrimp are among the species that feed on invertebrates but which can also feed on vertebrate eggs.
The impact on the local ecosystem is so significant and the species can also drive away other invasive species.
19. Marbled Crayfish
An invasive species with a high risk even in low numbers, these types of crayfish spread pathogens that cause diseases among local crayfish populations.
One Marbled Crayfish (Procambarus virginalis) can establish sufficient populations to form a colony if it escapes captivity.
All Marbled Crayfish are females which means any crayfish of the species can lay eggs.
Unlike in other species, all emerged crayfish have the same genetic structure as their parents, which means all Marbled Crayfish are the same.
The species is only eaten in a couple of countries around the world while most ban its imports or sale.
20. New Zealand Mudsnail
This species (Potamopyrgus antipodarum) is native to New Zealand and is now established in the area of The Great Lakes.
As a freshwater snail with an invasive status, New Zealand Mudsnails are known for their high reproductive rate. They are found in their thousands over small areas, which eliminates local populations.
The highest densities of New Zealand Mudsnails in North America are in The Great Lakes as well as in some Northwestern states.
The feeding habits of the species are also destructive. Even more, these mudsnails can close their shell with a lid-like structure which means predation is also difficult.
21. Northern Snakehead
A native species in Russia and China, Northern Snakeheads (Channa argus) are now invasive in Michigan.
They are relatively new in North America as they’ve only been here for around a couple of decades.
Initially discovered in Maryland, these fish have now reached the shores of The Great Lakes.
Intensive efforts were put in place in different areas of the country to limit their spread. Some counties even used piscicide to kill these fish, together with all other fish in ponds and lakes.
Efforts weren’t sufficient as the range of this invasive species now spreads from Michigan to Florida.
Nutrias (Myocastor coypus) are a type of rodent that’s often priced for its fur. This is also one of the reasons it was introduced to North America.
However, the species enters a conflict with humans through the destruction of goods and property. It’s also a vector of disease transmission as it moves through sewers and picks up pathogens.
Water contamination is one of the main reasons animals also get sick once the species enter their habitat.
23. Quagga Mussel
Phytoplankton is removed from water by these types of invasive mussels (Dreissena rostriformis). This means other filter feeders that are native to The Great Lakes are left without food.
Introduced by cargo vessels to North America, these bright cream mussels spread rapidly.
They alter the natural abundance of food sources for local mussels and other species that also filter feed through a siphon-like digestive system.
Furthermore, the species attaches itself and colonizes hard surfaces including ships and pipes.
24. Red Swamp Crayfish
The bright red crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) is an invasive species that tends to eliminate local crayfish populations.
It can be found in ponds, streams, and lakes and it has even been spotted in temporary bodies of water.
Food displacement and the tendency to burrow disrupt local ecosystems. High multiplication rates are specific to this species.
Unlike other invasive species, Red Swamp Crayfish are used for food in multiple regions of the world.
It may be cultivated as food for animals as well.
25. Round Goby
Round Goby fish (Neogobius melanostomus) made their way to The Great Lakes with ballast.
This is a species known to compete for food resources such as snails and mussels with local populations.
Highly aggressive, this species outcompetes many types of local fish. Round Goby is also food for larger species, so their role isn’t all bad in these lakes.
Various species of bass and trout feed on small Round Goby fish. It can reach a considerable size of up to 10 inches if not eaten by larger predatory fish in the lake.
26. Common Rudd
This invasive species (Scardinius erythrophthalmus) is now banned from importing or selling in the United States.
It has established itself in the area of The Great Lakes where it lives in the clean shallow water areas.
This is a species that feeds on local aquatic vegetation, disrupting the ecosystem if left unmanaged.
Apart from their excessive feeding habits, Common Rudd fish are also known to breed in large numbers as they live long lives.
These fish can survive up to 17 years in clean shallow lake waters.
27. Wild Boar
Wild Boars (Sus scrofa) are among the few invasive mammals in Michigan. Imports of this species into the state are now banned.
Wild Boars have a reduced number of predators in the state as wolves are known to be their main enemy.
High adaptability when it comes to diet also makes this species survive and even thrive in new areas.
It can eat roots, fruits, tree bark, insects, bugs, and even leaves which means it can survive long periods in almost any habitat.
This is also a species that can be found high up in mountains, far from human settlements.
28. Rusty Crayfish
These crustaceans (Faxonius rusticus) are typically small, measuring up to 6-7 inches at best.
Identification is based on their red-to-brown coloring which makes them look different compared to other local species.
Rusty Crayfish tend to survive longer than local crayfish populations as they fight back as an aggressive species.
Other crayfish may flee when seeing predators but Rusty Crayfish elevate their claws to defend themselves and don’t flee.
29. Stone Moroko
Stone Moroko (Pseudorasbora parva) is one of the smallest invasive species in Michigan with a European origin.
This species lives both in lakes and rivers and it tends to populate these areas in high numbers if left unmanaged.
The fish is also known to carry fish disease, which makes it dangerous to local populations in the rivers and lakes of the state.
Some municipalities around the world use piscicide against it, but the species is heavily farmed and bred illegally despite efforts to limit its numbers.
This type of fish (Tinca tinca) is native to Europe and Asia. Accidental introduction in the US has already allowed it to spread to Michigan.
It lives in lakes but it can also live in rivers. It prefers to swim next to muddy bottoms of lakes where it can be caught by fishermen on occasion.
The species is identified by its thick body as its invasive status is seen in its highly erratic mussel and aquatic insect feeding behavior.
Tench fish are now spread to almost all US states.
31. Western Tubenose Goby
First confirmed in Detroit River, Western Tubenose Goby fish (Proterorhinus semilunaris) are now widespread in many areas around the state.
It also lives in The Great Lakes, but only in the shallow areas on the lake’s edges.
Unlike other types of fish, Western Tubenose Goby fish are known for being omnivores and surviving on almost any type of food.
These fish are also believed to carry multiple parasites which are vectors of disease for local fish.
32. Wels Catfish
Some of the largest invasive fish in the state are Wels Catfish (Silurus glanis). These types of fish can grow up to a few feet long.
Some of the largest species measure up to 10 feet.
Fish and frogs are among the common predators of Wels Catfish. As a nocturnal species, this fish isn’t easily spotted by fishermen.
Wels Catfish are also known to eat large amounts of small local fish which disrupts the ecosystem.
33. Wrinkled Dune Snail
Wrinkled Dune Snails (Xeroplexa intersecta) live in multiple dry habitats across the state.
This invasive species has been found in gardens but it thrives on crops, where it can be a major pest if left unmanaged.
Often found on dunes around The Great Lakes and rivers, this is a species that’s found in different colors.
Its shell can be cream, tan, or even dark brown. Visible striations on its hard shell help differentiate it from the numerous other snails in the state.
34. Common Yabby
Blue invasive species in Michigan are rare. Common Yabby (Cherax destructor) is one of the rare blue crayfish in the state.
While it also comes in other colors, its blue-to-black nuance is dominant.
This species is also bred in captivity to increase the availability of blue crayfish.
It has an introduced status around the world. Common Yabbies are invasive in North America and Australia.
This crayfish impacts local crayfish populations with its high levels of aggression and fighting for food.
While not as common in local cooking, the blue morph Common Yabby is eaten as other crayfish in other parts of the world.
Zander (Sander lucioperca) is a common fish in Europe and a growing invasive species in North America. These fish show cannibalistic behavior towards their young.
The invasive status of the fish is also seen in the way these fish eat other small local fish. Salmon and trout are among the fish also eaten by zander.
Some countries have even established all caught zanders need to be killed as they negatively impact local fish populations.
36. Zebra Mussel
This species (Dreissena polymorpha) has been accidentally introduced to the area of The Great Lakes with ballast.
A white and brown color combination is specific to these mussels. The invasive species is known to lower water oxygen levels in areas it spreads in high numbers.
Like other invasive species in The Great Lakes, Zebra Mussels also attach themselves to various hard surfaces, often to ships and to shipping equipment.
37. Emerald Ash Borer
Emerald Ash Borers (Agrilus planipennis) are an invasive species throughout the state. They have a shiny emerald green color which inspires their name.
These bugs are true borers and one of the species which impacts local ash.
You can identify the damages these bugs make to ash by the holes visible on ash bark. These are D-shaped holes and not round holes as with other borers.
Insecticide and quarantine and among the recommended management techniques in areas where these bugs are confirmed.
Invasive Plants of Michigan
The following plants and flowers are invasive in Michigan.
38. Autumn Olive
Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) has a tropical origin. This species isn’t invasive in its native countries but it has invaded North America.
Eastern parts of the US mark its most common areas while Michigan is part of its Northwestern limit.
This plan has been introduced as an efficient windbreak as well as a garden plant.
The problem with Autumn Olive is its rapid germination and high levels of seed dispersal. Even burning the plant only leads to quick resprout.
39. Brazilian waterweed
Brazilian waterweed (Egeria densa) is one of the most invasive aquatic plants in Michigan. Many fault it for obstructing ships and passage through the water.
It grows densely in shallow water, creating a thick vegetation coat that is difficult to break through.
This species is also highly resilient both in warm and cool climates such as in Michigan. Brazilian waterweed is now a common presence from Florida to Michigan. It can be identified by its white and yellow flowers.
40. Carolina Fanwort
This type of fanwort (Cabomba caroliniana) is an invasive species in Michigan’s waters. It lives in lakes, ponds, and small streams.
Slow-moving shallow water is a common habitat for the species.
With its deep roots, it clogs local waterways and reduces oxygen levels in the water. Carolina Fanwort is also partially present at the surface and identifiable by its white and yellow flowers.
41. Curly-Leaf Pondweed
This type of submerged plant (Potamogeton crispus) has already invaded the region of the Great Lakes.
It prefers to establish itself in shallow lake waters where it drives out many other local species and lives no room for them to develop.
This species is also seen both underwater and on the surface level.
It’s also known to be a resistant invasive species as it can survive under frozen surface-level water and snap back to life in the spring.
42. Eurasian Watermilfoil
Eurasian Watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum) is a type of aquatic plant that has spread to North America.
They can be found in the areas of The Great Lakes. A high impact on the ecosystem is specific to this species which drives other local plants away.
Unlike other invasive species in Michigan, Eurasian Watermilfoil have natural predators or species which eat them and can control their spread.
Water veneers are a type of aquatic moth known to feed on Eurasian Watermilfoil.
43. European Frog-bit
This aquatic species (Hydrocharis morsus-ranae) has spread to the state’s lakes.
It has very long roots which run almost to the bottom of the lake. It can be identified by its green leaves at the surface and by its white petal flowers.
The species survive winters even if the lake freezes. It snaps back to life and thrives again in the spring.
Its status is highly invasive as it has a widespread distribution in the Eastern part of the United States.
You can distinguish it from other invasive plants with white flowers by its flowers which only have 3 petals.
44. Flowering Rush
This type of plant (Butomus umbellatus) is found in shallow lake and pond waters. It can also live in muddy areas such as around marshes and canals.
Flowering Rush is a green plant with white to pink flowers.
Its invasive nature eliminates ecosystem diversity. This is also a species with very deep roots.
The deep roots of the species can become highly problematic for boat traffic if the area is left unmanaged.
45. Giant Hogweed
Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) was intentionally introduced to North America and Michigan centuries ago as a decorative plant in gardens.
Since then, it has managed to establish itself as a local invasive species.
Giant Hogweed is directly dangerous to humans through its phototoxic nature. It sap that gets on your skin leads to skin inflammation as you stay long in the sun.
Its sap stops the skin from protecting itself properly.
46. Giant Salvinia
Giant Salvinia (Salvinia molesta) has made its way to North America by accident.
This is a type of aquatic plant with deep roots. While its roots don’t touch the bottom of the water, they are still deep and reduce oxygenation in the water.
Giant Salvinias are known to be under management techniques as they can stop ships from moving forward by blocking access routes.
Unlike other invasive species, Giant Salvinias can be controlled with biological control agents.
Salvinia Weevils are small black species that feed and eliminate these plants from their habitat.
This weevil is also a Brazilian native but it has been introduced around the world in areas where the plant has invaded.
This invasive species (Hydrilla verticillata) once used to be the most prevalent invasive plant in North America. Its range spreads from Florida to Michigan.
It grows in the water where it kills all other plants in its area. There are 2 versions of this plant and one of them is resistant to herbicides.
Hydrilla is a plant various species of fish may feed on, particularly in lakes as opposed to open oceans and marshes.
This species can also be used in various beauty products for its health benefits. The plant is high in natural antioxidants and minerals.
48. Japanese Knotweed
This type of knotweed (Fallopia japonica) is one of the tallest knotweeds in Michigan. It grows to a height of up to a few feet if left unmanaged.
Japanese Knotweed represents one of the species which creates excessive shade to other shorter plants, essentially keeping them from photosynthesis and killing them.
This type of knotweed was introduced as a decorative plant in multiple parts of the world outside of its native tropical areas.
49. Parrot Feather
Initially introduced to decorate aquariums and garden ponds, Parrot Feather plants (Myriophyllum aquaticum) have established themselves as noxious weeds.
This plant has rapid spread as it doesn’t need pollination.
Prohibited in many parts of the world, this is a noxious weed that stops the roots of other plants from growing.
The species can be controlled in Southern states more than in Michigan through biological control agents.
Flea beetles and their larvae feed on Parrot Feathers.
50. Common Reed
Common Reed (Phragmites australis) is one of the oldest species of wetland grasses in the state.
Some see it as a local plant but Common Reed is an introduced species. Its biggest impact is its elimination of natural biodiversity in marshes, around lakes, and ponds.
It overgrows all local plants and once established, it doesn’t allow the roots of other plants to survive.
This species also has multiple uses across various industries. It can be cooked and eaten on its own.
Other industries use its fibrous nature to create straws and textiles for human use.
51. Purple Loosestrife
Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) is a species that grows close to lakes, streams, and canals. It can overgrow these areas and their waterways.
You can identify the plant easily by its purple-pink flowers. These flowers are rich in nectar and are used for food by multiple types of bees in Michigan.
Once it establishes its roots, Purple Loosestrife can grow in high numbers in an area of hundreds of miles.
Millions of seeds a single plant releases are carried by the wind. Most areas it grows in are left unmanaged as it can be difficult to excavate its deep roots.
52. Starry Stonewort
This type of invasive weed (Nitellopsis obtusa) grows in water at higher depths compared to other invasive species or other local plants.
It has a green color and thin stems, similar to vines.
This species is only found in deep lakes such as The Great Lakes as it starts to grow only at deeper depths than 13 feet.
While it doesn’t impact local fauna much, this is a weed that can block boats traveling these lakes.
53. Water Caltrop
Water Caltrop (Trapa natans) sometimes overlaps Starry Stonewort in The Great Lakes.
This is a species that only grows at deep depths below 12 feet. It can have very deep roots and it needs to establish them in muddy terrains.
Water Caltrop is a species that has both underwater and surface-level leaves. Some cultures around the world eat raw Water Caltrop.
54. Water Soldier
Water Soldiers (Stratiotes aloides) are a type of aquatic plant that lives partly underwater.
Similar to Aloe Vera, Water Soldier plants prefer shallow water, marshes, and humid areas around canals.
The species has deep roots which are difficult to excavate.
It has also been linked to benefits in alternative medicine treatments. Water Soldier extracts are used to treat various skin-level wounds.
55. Yellow Floating Heart
Yellow Floating Heart (Nymphoides peltata) is a species introduced for decorative purposes on local ponds in North America.
They have an aquatic presence around lakes as well. These types of plants are identified by their uniform yellow flowers.
All of the areas where it grows are areas light doesn’t penetrate water anymore as its petals cover the surface of the water.
Reduced oxygenation is specific to the US areas this invasive species is found.
Some of the recreational activities in ponds and lakes this species grows in have to suffer. Boat traffic is limited as many small boats can be stuck in their long roots.
The species can be cooked and eaten similarly to kale and other leafy greens.