The latest info on plant pests, pathogens, and weeds.

Emerald Ash Borer Continues its Spread

EABCitiesTownsAug2016_redux

With the recent detection of emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis, “EAB”) in three new municipalities (Boxford, Newton and Wilbraham), the total number of Massachusetts counties impacted by this pest has now risen to six (see Table 1). Emerald ash borer, an invasive wood-boring pest that threatens our forests and urban landscapes, was first discovered in in Berkshire County in the town of Dalton back in 2012. It has since spread to various other counties throughout the state. While the expansion of the state’s EAB infestation is to be expected, agencies such as the Dept. Of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), the Dept. of Agricultural Resources (MDAR), the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) are working together to do all they can to slow its spread.

Since its initial discovery in Detroit, Michigan back in 2002, EAB has killed tens of millions of ash trees across the country and cost billions of dollars in damages. Confirmed infestations range as far west as Colorado and as far south as Texas; Delaware became the most recent state to confirm its presence, just this past August. It is expected that EAB will eventually overtake every state on the eastern seaboard as it continues to devastate native ash populations.

Unfortunately, officials have determined this pest spreads too far too fast to stop its spread. Instead efforts are currently focusing on mitigating EAB’s impact and monitoring its overall movement. One such strategy involves targeting areas in proximity to a known infestation with a combination of pheromone traps and so-called “sink trees”, trees that have been girdled to make them more attractive to wood boring pests. This allows foresters to track the general direction EAB is moving in and gives us better information to better prepare neighboring communities for the arrival of this pest. There is also a citizen science program, known as Massachusetts Wasp Watchers, that tracks a native non-stinging wasp (known as the Smokey-Winged Beetle Bandit, Cerceris fumipennis) that preys on EAB and other related beetles. The program, known as “biosurveillliance,” is what led to the discovery of EAB in the city of Newton earlier this summer. DCR is also participating in a biocontrol program that attempts to suppress established populations of EAB through the release of tiny parasitoid wasps that target the beetle’s larvae and eggs.

With all of these surveillance and management tools at hand, there is a lot communities themselves can do to prepare for this pest. To learn more about EAB and what steps you and your community can take to manage your ash trees before they are impacted, visit:

What’s Being Done During Forest Pest Awareness Month

August is Forest Pest Awareness Month in Massachusetts, a state-appointed time to focus on Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) (Anoplophora glabripennis) and other invasive insects. ALB is a species of great concern because it attacks and destroys a wide range of native hardwood trees, including maple. Human efforts remain the best methods to detect the presence of ALB and prevent it from spreading further and causing more damage.

So what is being done?

Two ground survey crew members

If you live in or near Worcester, where the ALB infestation in Massachusetts is located, you may have noticed staff from the eradication program working outside. Perhaps they’ve knocked on your door to explain what they need to do in your front yard. Ground surveyors are the backbone of the ALB eradication effort. They inspect trees with binoculars from every angle, searching for telltale signs of damage, including perfectly round exit holes, chewed-up looking egg sites, and frass (sawdust left behind by the larva).  These aren’t always an easy to see on large trees, or when leaves and branches can conceal damage. Surveying a tree just once isn’t enough: areas are re-surveyed for several years for any signs of the beetle.

Typical ALB damage: note the perfectly round exit holes

An adventurous tree inspector

If the ground surveyors see something suspicious, such as a hole in a tree or damaged bark, a more thorough inspection of a tree may be required. This is where climbers come in. Specially trained, they use their gear to climb trees with suspected ALB damage to see if that suspicious mark is from ALB or some other insect or source. Some of the trees that require inspection by the climbers are daunting, either due to their height or perilous location or apparent instability, but the climbers are trained and experienced to do the job efficiently and safely.

Checking an ALB trap for beetles

Another method of detecting the presence of ALB include traps, which you may have seen in and around Worcester. These traps lure beetles with a combination of beetle pheromones and tree scents. The adult beetle, which is a clumsy flier, slides down the plastic walls and into a cup of salt water, preventing escape. The traps serve as an early warning detection system, alerting surveyors to the spread of ALB.

As Forest Pest Awareness Month ends, take time to learn what ALB damage looks like and inspect the trees in you neighborhood for any signs of damage. The more the public knows, the more effective we can be at combating ALB! People who are able to monitor their own trees for suspicious damage are a big help in the fight against invasive forest pests. If you suspect you have seen ALB or found a tree with ALB damage, report it at http://massnrc.org/pests/albreport.aspx.  More information can be found at http://massnrc.org/pests/alb/

ALB damage picture from americanforests.org. All other pictures courtesy of USDA/APHIS

New Laminated Guide Sheets

ALB look-alikes guide, 8.5×11 inches

The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) has new items in stock that you can order, free of charge, to help raise awareness about the invasive Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB).  Two of our most popular handouts, our ALB look-alike sheet and our ALB tree guide, are now available in single-sided laminated form, perfect for display outside or indoors.  You can use them to educate campers, tenants, office workers and visitors, park goers, or any passersby about how to identify this invasive pest and the trees it attacks. Community involvement and awareness is a key part of the effort to eradicate ALB.  The more people know about the beetle, the better equipped they will be to stop it from spreading.

To place an order for this and other educational material, visit http://bit.ly/FPOMOrder

ALB host tree guide, 11×17 inches

Hey, That’s Not ALB!

Just a reminder: Here in Massachusetts, the bugs may be flying, but Asian Longhorned Beetle won’t emerge from the trees until July. If you’re seeing big black beetles with long, long antennae in May and early June, they are almost certainly the native look-alikes knows as Whitespotted Pine Sawyers. Read more in this blog post from our archives.
Asian Longhorned Beetle vs. Whitespotted Pine Sawyer

Arbor Day Ash Tree Tagging

With Arbor Day only a month away, it’s time to think about planning how we can celebrate trees and their ability to provide our neighborhoods with clean air, shaded streets, and aesthetic value. This year, why not consider joining our Arbor Day ash tree tagging project! Spearheaded by the Mass. Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR), the goal of this project is to get as many organizations as possible to tag at least one ash tree to spread the word about Emerald Ash Borer (EAB).

EAB Tag for Ash Trees

EAB is an invasive tree-killing beetle from Asia that feeds on ash trees (Fraxinus spp.), a common component of our urban forests and rural woodlands. First detected in Massachusetts in 2012, established EAB infestations have now been confirmed in more than ten communities across four counties in our state (Berkshire, Essex, Suffolk, and Worcester). Infested ash trees die in 3-5 years, in many cases becoming hazards to people and property as dead trees decay and fall apart.

If you have ash trees in your town and want to help raise awareness about the impact of Emerald Ash Borer this Arbor Day (April 29th), MDAR is offering free Tree Tagging Kits to interested groups. The kits come with tags printed on high-visibility green plastic board, flagging tape to tie them onto trees, and a tip sheet to get the most out of your tagging efforts. Through raising awareness of the impact of Emerald Ash Borer, we hope to foster early detection of this pest, something that will provide communities with the time needed to prepare for the EAB’s arrival and make important decisions about how to manage their ash trees. To submit a request for a free kit, visit http://bit.ly/outreachreq.

UmassAmherstTreeTag0620151

Winter Moth Survey Results 2015

Spring is in the air! With these mild temperatures, tree buds are beginning to swell and soon the winter moths we witnessed swarming at our porch lights over winter will start hatching into hungry, green caterpillars. The winter moth (Operophtera brumata) is an invasive species first discovered in Massachusetts in the 1990s. Winter moth caterpillars are highly efficient tree defoliators, often stripping the leaves of oaks, maples and other hardwood trees down to lacy skeletons.

Between November 2015 and January 2016 over 2200 people took the time to respond to our survey after being “bugged” by swarms of winter moth. Here are some of the results:

Winter Moth Caterpillar

Winter Moth Caterpillar
Photo by R. Childs

Of the 2200+ responses received in our survey the counties with the highest number of participants were:

  • Middlesex
  • Essex
  • Norfolk

However, the individual towns with the most respondents were:

  • Chelmsford
  • Boston
  • Milton

While we’ve been slowly watching the winter moth expand its range westward in Massachusetts, we only saw a small uptick in survey participation in Worcester County.

It’s important to note that high turn-out for a town or county is not at all indicative of increased winter moth activity in those areas, rather just that these folks are probably more active on social media and sharing of the survey among local groups was more popular!

The majority of people responding to the survey indicated that the winter moths were most commonly seen at the porch lights on their homes, and over half of respondents reported seeing 50+ winter moths at a time (i.e. LOTS)!

As in previous years, the information collected through this survey is shared with scientists over at the University of Massachusetts where they are working on a biological control program to combat the winter moth.

2015 Wasp Watchers Round-up!

The results are in… MassWasp Watchers Massachusettsachusetts Wasp Watchers had a record season in 2015!

The smoky-winged beetle bandit (Cerceris fumipennis) is a native, non-stinging wasp species that feeds its young by catching Buprestid beetles, including the most infamous: emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis). Cerceris wasps are an important early detection tool that can assist in slowing the spread of emerald ash borer (EAB) and alerting us to potential infestations in new counties and towns in Massachusetts.

With EAB detections now in four Massachusetts counties (Berkshire 2012, Essex 2013, Suffolk 2014, Worcester 2015), volunteers and staff did a great job ramping up their Wasp Watcher efforts. This November, EAB was found by crews surveying for the invasive Asian Longhorned Beetle in the city of Worcester. (EAB Found in Worcester)

Smoky-Winged Beetle Bandit with EAB prey. Photo Credit: Philip Careless, University of Guelph, Insect Systematics Lab

Sixteen people participated in this year’s Wasp Watchers program by visiting established Cerceris colonies, monitoring the wasp nests and collecting discarded buprestid beetles. The 2015 Massachusetts Wasp Watchers achieved the following:

 

  • Checked 141 sites throughout Essex, Barnstable, Middlesex, Norfolk, Suffolk, Plymouth and Worcester counties.
  • Completed 282 site visits in total.
  • Collected beetles at 42 locations in 30 different towns.
  • Together, we collected a total of 648 Buprestid beetles
  • Of the 648 Buprestid beetles that were picked up, 256 were Agrilus species.  Agrilus is the buprestid genus we care the most about, because there are several non-native Agrilus species of interest, including EAB. However, NONE of our Agrilus were EAB or any other target pests.

 

Thank you to all who participated in this year’s survey!

Emerald Ash Borer Preparedness Forum

In early January, the Mass. Dept. of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) partnered with the Massachusetts Forest Pest Task Force to hold an Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) Preparedness Forum at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, MA. The event had a great turnout, with over 65 participants from more than 30 communities across Massachusetts in attendance. This day-long forum provided attendees with an update on the current status of EAB in our state as well as information about what should be done to prepare for this pest and how to get the resources to do so. More importantly, participants, who were representatives from communities impacted or soon-to-be impacted by EAB, gathered together with experts, including representatives from MDAR, MA Dept. of Conservation and Recreation, US Forest Service, USDA, Cornell University, UMass Amherst, and National Grid, to discuss new ideas about how communities in Massachusetts can best prepare for and respond to EAB.

EAB_Overview_small

Nathan Siegert, US Forest Service, provides participants an overview of EAB.

Resource_Table_small

Resources lined the tables upon participant’s arrival to the forum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you were unable to attend the forum or would simply like to check out all of the great resources provided that day, we have now made them available online! Detailed notes covering all of the day’s sessions, PowerPoints for each of the presentations, and digital versions of the resources provided are now accessible at the following link: http://bit.ly/1KD8ebS

Emerald Ash Borer Found in Worcester

As you may have read in the news last week, state officials from the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) recently confirmed the presence of Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis, “EAB”) in the city of Worcester, MA. EAB is a small, metallic green beetle, native to Asia, which feeds on ash trees (Fraxinus spp.) and white fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus). This pest can kill a tree quickly, within just 3 to 5 years, because it bores directly under the bark and disrupts the tree’s conductive system. It has now spread throughout 25 states, killing millions of ash trees and causing billions of dollars in treatment, removal and replacement costs.

In late November, four infested trees were found by crews in Worcester that were checking trees for another invasive pest, the Asian Longhorned Beetle. With EAB already in Berkshire and Essex Counties, the arrival of this pest in the central part of Massachusetts is not unexpected. But while the confirmation of EAB in Worcester is not cause for alarm, it is an invasive pest and it does require communities to alter the way they are managing forests and street trees in order to deal with the pending loss of ash.

Although eradication of EAB is not feasible, slowing its spread allows communities to prepare in advance and make the best decisions about how to manage ash trees before they are impacted. To prevent the inadvertent spread of forest pests like EAB, avoid moving untreated firewood long distances. Instead, find local and trusted firewood suppliers, or purchase firewood that is certified as treated.

With this new find in Worcester, MA, it is important to recognize that although the statewide emerald ash borer quarantine allows ash and firewood to be moved throughout the state, ash remains a host for Asian Longhorned Beetle. Therefore no ash products or firewood can be moved from within the 110 square mile regulated area encompassing Worcester, Boylston, West Boylston, Shrewsbury, and parts of Holden and Auburn.

Helpful Resources:

Massachusetts Beekeeper Survey

The Chief Apiary Inspector at the Mass. Dept. of Agricultural Resources (MDAR), Kim Skyrm, sent us this note about a survey her team is sending out to beekeepers, to gather information about hive health. If you are a Massachusetts beekeeper (or know someone who is), read below:

MDAR has created a survey to serve as a tool for Massachusetts honey beekeepers to share data on any hive losses that may have occurred during the 2015 season. Participation in this survey is voluntary. Responses will be analyzed by MDAR Apiary Program staff, who will then provide a summary of results to the beekeeping community this winter.

Beekeepers can take the survey by clicking here. In addition, beekeepers willing to submit photos documenting any 2015 hive health issues can send them via email. Photos will be reviewed and responses provided in a timely manner. If you have specific questions that you want addressed, please include that information in the email.

Thank you for taking the time to complete this survey and provide feedback on the health of your hives.

Happy Beekeeping!

ApiaryInspectionForBlog