Thread: Losing battles, losing the war against bush honeysuckles

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Central Indiana

    Losing battles, losing the war against bush honeysuckles

    I've been fighting the invasive Asian bush honeysuckles for years. I've used various methods and lots of different tools. I've sweated and strained and cursed those nasty honeysuckles for so long that my little boy (now four) just automatically rants away when he sees one: "Daddy, there is one of those stupid honeysuckles, taking over our forest!"

    Despite all of my efforts, it is all that I can do to keep about seven or eight acres fairly clean--but honeysuckles on neighboring lands provide the continuous propagation of offspring to replace the hundreds upon hundreds that I destroy. Five years ago, I carried out a major clearing of honeysuckles. But they are creeping back again . . .

    That's in central Indiana. But I see it all over the Midwest. Today, I trudged through my parents' woods in southwestern Ohio. The bush honeysuckles are taking over. I've watched them invade, from the forest edge, deeper in. Now, there are hardly any areas clear of them. The native underbrush is disappearing. It is now almost impossible to find the native ferns that used to flourish in the oak/hickory forest there. I found one this afternoon, in a little cove where the honeysuckles had not reached. The baby oaks are disappearing. This is a mature forest and, for years, whenever an opening appeared in the canopy, there would be young oaks and hickories. Now, natural succession has brought in loads of sugar maples. They might very well replace the oaks/hickories anyway. But with the addition of the bush honeysuckles, the shade in the understory is simply too dense. Only where we intervene will they be able to survive.

    And what a battle! I am discouraged, just looking at it. Thousands upon thousands of honeysuckles . . . . and in deep woods, with ravines, rocks, steep hills, etc. It is not an easy task.

    The birds devour the honeysuckle berries, but they have such a low nutrient count that they would probably starve if that's all they had to eat. All they do is help spread the invader.

    Alas, I think that it will be a losing battle in a longer losing war against these invasives. I'm tempted to just give up and see what happens in twenty years. A sugar maple/honeysuckle forest?

    I did notice that Pawpaws compete effectively with honeysuckles--to the point of actually winning the fight with them for space. Perhaps Pawpaw patches are the answer . . . . a dense native colonizer instead of a dense invasive colonizer?

    Am I overly concerned? I mean, I know that there are so many invasives! Autumn olives and kudzu are just as bad, maybe worse. And I've read articles that downplay the impact of the invasives. They say that ecologies are constantly changing anyway and that species are always invading, retreating, dying out, etc. But I just hate to see it happen. Change is inevitable, but I'd sure like to conserve some of these natives that seem to be so rapidly disappearing.

  2. #2
    Super Moderator Oak Quirky Quercus's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004

    RE: Losing battles, losing the war against bush honeysuckles

    When you get done removing all the honeysuckle from your acreage, there's an oil spill in the gulf waiting for you to clean up next.

    Seriously, you're not superhuman. There's only so much you can do.
    Have you tried herbicides and if so what herbicide and what has been the result?

    I wouldn't worry about the sugar maples. Unlike silver maple and red maple, sugar maple is one of the final climax species. Even after oak-hickory.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Central Indiana

    RE: Losing battles, losing the war against bush honeysuckles

    Yeah, I'll get to the kudzu next, THEN the Gulf oil spill . . .

    I'm not worried about the sugar maples at all--I know that's part of succession.

    The trouble with these honeysuckles is that you have to cut them before applying herbicide. Otherwise, they come back after losing foliage. I use Roundup, which is the recommended herbicide. Actually, it is some generic brand, but the same active ingredient: glyphosate. It works. But they come back in a few years, thanks to the aggressive, invasive tendencies of the species.

    I have resigned myself to small victories.

  4. #4
    Super Moderator Oak Quirky Quercus's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004

    RE: Losing battles, losing the war against bush honeysuckles

    If they keep coming back then it doesn't work.
    I've never had much luck with roundup or generic roundup (which can have a different active ingredient but the name escapes me at the moment).

    This season you might try specifically, a tree and stump killer as opposed to roundup which is more for grass and weeds in the concentrations it is sold in retail stores. Look for triclopyr as the ingredient. You'll need to cut and paint.

    And if that doesn't do the trick, and there's a good chance it won't, you may need a cocktail of sorts of commercial herbicides like Garlon mixed with AXIT basal oil.
    Take a look at this control trial done by purdue.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    St. Louis zone 6

    RE: Losing battles, losing the war against bush honeysuckles

    Thanks for fighting the good fight. I see mimosa and honeysuckle all over around here.
    Zone 6, St. Louis, MO

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Central Indiana

    RE: Losing battles, losing the war against bush honeysuckles

    Thanks for the advice on chemicals. I've had pretty good success with glyphosate when I "cut and paint"--using at least a 25% solution. But I have to "paint" (I actually use a spray bottle and soak the cut end of the branch thoroughly) every single cut end of every single branch.

    A broadcast spraying solution sounds like a much easier route. But I am concerned that I'll end up killing other species that I want to live! I've had a few losses already, with limited cutting and spraying. Maybe I'll combine the two, using cutting and painting in the tight areas where there are baby trees or native plants that I want to survive and broader spraying in other spots. IF I can find a spray that will work by just contacting foliage!

    Thanks for the suggestions. I'll be trying them out . . .

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Northern Minnesota-zone 3

    RE: Losing battles, losing the war against bush honeysuckles

    You need fire. Fire will help kill the honeysuckle, which don't like fire, will benefit the native ferns and shrubs, and will greatly help oak regeneration.

    Controlled burns up here have been the single greatest enemy of invasive plants. Up here it helps regenerate the oak and pine.. both of which are very desirable. The fire suppressed forests often get taken over by less desirable species (balsam fir, spruce, aspen, and in some areas.. sugar maple, which is desirable).

    The MN DNR recommends burning to get rid of invasive honeysuckles... but they shouldn't be confused with native honeysuckles, which are an important component of many forests up here.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Western NY, Zone 6

    RE: Losing battles, losing the war against bush honeysuckles

    I was gonna chime in and say "torch all of it" also, but didn't want to be responsible for someone starting a massive forest fire, especially if the conditions are really dry out where those honeysuckles are growing. I agree though, incinerating them would be quite effective, assuming conditions were appropriate for it.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Central Indiana

    RE: Losing battles, losing the war against bush honeysuckles

    I've thought about burning, but I don't think I should. I'm fairly remote for being so close to Indianapolis (a thirty minute drive away from downtown), but I'm not sure about fire. Besides, even a controlled burn would take out a lot of what I want to keep . . . .

    And the place in Ohio is too close to other people's property and houses for using fire of any kind of size.

    True enough, though, that the lack of forest fires is part of the problem. Without the burning, invasives can really take over.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2006

    RE: Losing battles, losing the war against bush honeysuckles

    Hey Sprawler,

    I'm trying to naturalize my woods here and it seems to me the best remedy for BHskl is shade. I whack invasives, plant shade loving natives, and use a little roundup sometimes. Bush Honysuckle hates roundup after the chainsaw. And makes good campfire wood. So does Ailanthus.

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