18 Invasive Species That Are Overrunning North America

Photo of author

By Jonathan Trent

The rise of global trade and travel has allowed humans from around the world to disperse across North America, bringing with them an array of invasive animal and plant species. So, here are 18 invasive animal and plant species that are overrunning the continent!

Spotted Lanternfly

Photo Credit: Amy Lutz/Shutterstock

Cornell University outlines just how much damage the spotted lanternfly does to residents, businesses, tourism, forestry, and agriculture. Feeding in numbers, excreting sticky residue that promotes mold growth, attacking native insects, and weakening plants are just a handful of the damages caused by this terrifyingly invasive species!

European Starling

Photo Credit: Garrett Gibson/Shutterstock

European starlings have been causing problems for the US agricultural industry for almost two centuries. They travel in flocks to feed on farmers’ yields and have a habit of overrunning the nests of native bird species, permanently displacing them. The issue has become so bad that many authorities are devising deterrent measures!

Cane Toads

Photo Credit: Juan Sangiovanni/Shutterstock

The cane toad’s invasion of North America is humankind’s fault, as is the arrival of many invasive species. Originally introduced in the 1930s to control pests in sugarcane, wild cane toad numbers have grown, with many animals falling foul of their toxic secretions, destabilizing native ecosystems.

Emerald Ash Borer

Photo Credit: Herman Wong HM/Shutterstock

Originally hailing from Asia, the emerald ash borer has been wreaking havoc since it first arrived on North American shores in the 1990s. CNN states that the insect will kill 99% of all the ash trees that they attack, greatly affecting the states of Wisconsin and Minnesota. 

European Rabbit

Photo Credit: Jesus Cobaleda/Shutterstock

They may look cute, but European rabbits have been having a hugely negative impact on North American land. Their diet of seeds and seedlings is preventing regeneration in the areas they now call home, depleting the resources that were once available for native species. They’re little terrors!

Asian Long-Horned Beetle

Photo Credit: High Mountain/Shutterstock

The Asian long-horned beetle isn’t so much a threat to North American animals, but instead its array of hardwood trees. The beetle buries itself into trees, disrupting their vascular systems and leading to their eventual deaths. Sometimes, measuring less than an inch in length, these pests can be very hard to spot.

European Green Crab

Photo Credit: davemhuntphotography/Shutterstock

Alaska is currently experiencing a crisis caused by the arrival of the European green crab. The species has been outcompeting local species for food and habitat, and it is notoriously aggressive, with no natural predators to stop its tirades. It may be inhumane, but they’re going to have to be eradicated eventually.


Photo Credit: Michal Ninger/Shutterstock

Originally introduced to North America by fur farmers, the nutria, a distant relative of the capybara, has been making itself at home in the wetlands of the USA. Nutria have huge appetites and have been eating their way through vegetation in their new habitat, changing our wetland landscapes dramatically.


Photo Credit: Drew McArthur/Shutterstock

Originally native to the Indo-Pacific, the visually stunning lionfish is dominating the Atlantic Ocean and, according to the National Ocean Service, becoming a threat to native fish. As they aren’t native, they have no predators, allowing their population to grow and causing a decline in the population of their prey, snapper and grouper fish.

Burmese Python

Photo Credit: dwi putra stock/Shutterstock

The Burmese python has gone from being a new invasive species to working its way to the top of the food chain in the Florida Everglades since it made its way over from Burma in 2000. Originally brought over as pets, the spread of the species is blamed on accidental release or escape.

Fire Ants

Photo Credit: SweetCrisis/Shutterstock

Red imported fire ants, originally from South America, are constantly in the news due to new colonies frequently popping up across North America. Their stings can cause serious damage to both animals and humans, giving off a sensation that feels as though you have been set on fire. They’re really not pleasant!

Mute Swan

Photo Credit: Albert Beukhof/Shutterstock

The importation of species purely based on their aesthetic appeal may sound like the peak of human stupidity, but it’s more common than you may think. The mute swan is a prime example; since being introduced to North America, the species has begun to dominate water habitats, using their intimidating size as leverage.

Purple Loosestrife

Photo Credit: Ole Schoener/Shutterstock

Some wetland areas in the United States have become dominated by purple loosestrife, a plant brought over to the nation in the 1800s for medicinal and ornamental uses. The spreading of the plant has become almost unstoppable, with each plant able to produce 2 million wind-dispersed seeds per year. Holy moly!

Japanese Honeysuckle

Photo Credit: nnattalli/Shutterstock

It may look pleasant enough, but once a Japanese honeysuckle has established itself in an area, it’s almost impossible to remove. After being brought to Long Island in the 19th century, Japanese honeysuckle has crept down the entirety of the East Coast, mainly because of birds eating the plant’s fruit and spreading its seeds.


Photo Credit: Sandra Burm/Shutterstock

Japanese Kudzu is one of the better-known invasive plant species that has made a home for itself in North America. Originally, it was used as a shade plant on Southern porches before eventually being used by farmers and subsequently spreading. It’s now present in 30 of the 50 states, which is shocking!

Wild Boar

Photo Credit: Martin Prochazkacz/Shutterstock

Believe it or not, pigs are not native to North America; they were first brought over by Christopher Columbus in 1493 for food! The Guardian reports that the wild descendants of those pigs, wild boar, have been causing trouble ever since, with their numbers rising to over 6 million ever since!

English Ivy

Photo Credit: sharohyip/Shutterstock

As it’s so capable of handling all sorts of conditions, English ivy has become one of the worst-spread invasive plant species on the continent. It has the ability to kill trees after climbing up them, with the density of the plant restricting the tree’s accessibility to light. That’s kind of terrifying.

Water Hyacinth

Photo Credit: Ocha shanum/Shutterstock

Last but not least, once water hyacinths have begun to grow on bodies of water, they form a carpet-like layer, which restricts light and oxygen from reaching the aquatic life under the surface, killing them en masse. The plant also restricts waterways, limiting boat traffic and affecting a side of the economy. There’s not much to like about them!