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

Climate Change and Invasive Species

Want to learn more about the potential impacts of climate change on invasive plants, insects, and pathogens? You can now download a pdf version of the Powerpoint presentation on Climate Change and Invasive Species given by Mass. Dept. of Agricultural Resources employee Jennifer Forman Orth at a recent meeting of the Ecological Landscaping Alliance. You can also download the accompanying reading list of peer-reviewed literature on this topic.

Campgrounds and Firewood: Preventing the Movement of Forest Pests


What can campgrounds do to prevent the movement of infested firewood?

Most people have already heard about the devastating impact that the Asian Longhorned Beetle has had on the city of Worcester and surrounding towns, which together have lost over 33,000 trees due to this invasive forest pest. Unfortunately, one of the ways that Asian Longhorned Beetle and other forest pests spread is through the transport of firewood. And while it is common practice for campers to bring firewood with them to a campsite, this brings with it the risk that forest pests and diseases could spread to new areas of the state.

Join our efforts to prevent further tree loss by using these four ideas to educate campers about the problems associated with forest pests and transporting firewood.

  1. If you own or manage a campground, consider asking your campers to use local firewood, to avoid the risk of accidentally transporting forest pests when moving firewood long distances.
  2. Consider offering local firewood for sale at your campground, or provide campers with a list of local, preferred firewood dealers.
  3. Order free outreach materials to hand out to campers or to display at your campground. We offer a variety of ID cards, pamphlets and posters that can be ordered online at
  4. Use the text below to update your website to provide information about forest pests and the dangers of transporting firewood long distances:


Bringing firewood from home when you go camping could put your favorite campsite in danger. Tree-killing insects and diseases can hitchhike on firewood and then use it to spread to new areas. Instead of bringing firewood with you when you go camping, buy firewood from a location close to where you camp. For more information, see:

Losing trees is bad for the environment and the economy. With millions of potential host trees at stake, now is the time to educate campers about this important issue.
Image credit:

Ash Tree Tagging Kits

EAB Tag for Ash Trees

If you have ash trees in your town and want to raise awareness about the impact of Emerald Ash Borer, the Mass. Dept. of Agricultural Resources is now offering free Tree Tagging Kits to interested groups. The kits come with tags printed on high-visibility green paper, flagging tape to tie them onto trees, and a tip sheet to get the most out of your tagging efforts. This type of outreach has been used in several other states with great success…see above for a sample of the tag. To submit a request for a free kit, use this form.

Hey, that’s not Asian Longhorned Beetle!

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 this spring, 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

Spotted Lanternfly: A New Pest in the U.S.

On September 22nd, 2014 the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture confirmed the first detection of Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) in the United States. Despite its name, this insect is not a true fly but is actually a type of planthopper – a relative of aphids, leafhoppers, and cicadas. Spotted lanternflies (like other planthoppers) damage plants by sucking sap from leaves and stems.

Adult spotted lanternflies are large insects, approximately 1 inch long and ½ inch wide with distinctly colored wings. Their forewings are light grey with black spots and a speckled band. Their hind wings, when exposed, are bright red, black, and white. ­

Figure 1 - Spotted lanternfly adult with wings spread.

This colorful planthopper is native to China, India, Japan, and Vietnam and has become an invasive pest in Korea since its introduction in 2006. As with many other invasive species, the long-distance spread of spotted lanternfly is enabled by movement of infested material. Therefore, the infested areas in Pennsylvania are under a quarantine order to prevent the spread of spotted lanternfly beyond its current distribution.

Although the spotted lanternfly primarily affects grape (Vitis sp.) and the invasive tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima), it has a wide host range that includes over 65 other plants. A key to their ability to infest an area seems to hinge on the presence of tree-of-heaven, which is found throughout Massachusetts, particularly in urban areas and along roadsides and forest edges.

Figure 2 – Lateral view of an adult spotted lanternfly.

While there are many plants in this state on which they are known to feed, it is still unclear what the potential for damage will be if spotted lanternfly comes to Massachusetts. According to the USDA, the spotted lanternfly has the potential to become highly invasive and spread rapidly when introduced to new areas, as well as seriously impact grape, orchard, and logging industries in the United States.

If you find an insect that you suspect is the spotted lanternfly, please submit a pest report by visiting this link:

Figure 1: Holly Raguza, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
Figure 2: Lawrence Barringer, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture

2014 Plant Pest and Pathogen Survey Results

As part of the Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey (CAPS) in 2014, Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources staff designed and implemented a number of surveys to detect non-native insect pests, plant pathogens, and weeds considered threats to agriculture and natural resources in our state. Here are the results:

1. Nursery inspectors performed inspections at 56 nurseries in 13 counties for the following non-native pests and plants:

Inspectors continued to monitor an existing Mile-a-Minute vine infestation in Middlesex County. No other pest species were found.

MDAR Pest Survey Technician, Kaileigh Sweeney, checks an insect pheromone trap at a CAPS nursery site.

2. Staff also performed moth pest surveys using pheromone traps at 20 different farms and nurseries across the state, targeting the following:

None of the above target species were found.

3. MDAR staff received Farm Bill funding in 2014 to conduct a survey of Massachusetts apple orchards. As the fourth largest agricultural commodity in Massachusetts, apples are an important specialty crop in our state. Ten orchards were checked for the presence of the following pests and diseases using pheromone traps:

Six additional apple orchards were surveyed for Apple Proliferation Phytoplasma, Candidatus Phytoplasma mali.

None of the above target species were found.

4. MDAR staff received Farm Bill funding in 2013 to perform a survey for Plum Pox Virus (Potyvirus sp.) in Massachusetts stonefruit orchards. This survey was completed in June 2014 when staff visited 3 final sites in 3 counties. At the end of the survey, a total of 850 leaf tissue samples were collected and sent to the UMass Extension Plant Diagnostic Lab for testing.

No samples tested positive for this pathogen.

MDAR State Pest Survey Coordinator, Sarah Grubin, surveys for Plum Pox Virus in an orchard.

Tips for identifying Ash trees

With the invasive Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) now found in Suffolk, Essex, and Berkshire Counties, many concerned members of the public have asked us for tips on how to identify Ash trees so that they can check them for signs of infestation. Here are some of the key characteristics of Ash:

Green Ash

White Ash

The two most common species of Ash in Massachusetts are Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) and White Ash (F. americana). In the fall, Green Ash are distinguishable by the spectacular yellow coloration of their leaves, while White Ash display an orangey-red leaf color. Ash trees are one of the few hardwoods in New England that have compound leaves. Each leaf is comprised of between 5 and 11 toothed, oval leaflets that are paired along the leaf stem, except for the terminal leaflet at the top, which points upward.

Once the leaves have fallen from the trees this autumn, you can still identify Ash using the tree’s branching pattern or bark:

  • Ash is one of the few types of trees in New England with opposite branching (that is, their branches and buds are directly across from one another).

  • While the bark of young ash is smooth, the bark of mature Ash trees has a diamond-shaped pattern, as depicted in the photo below:

A mature Ash tree

  • Boxelder (Acer negundo) is a type of maple that could be confused with Ash because it also has compound leaves and opposite branching. However, Boxelder leaves typically have only 3 to 5 leaflets and the leaflets are usually lobed, not oval.

Boxelder leaves

Fall and winter are good times for checking ash trees for signs of EAB damage because it’s easier to observe the bark of a tree once the leaves have fallen. Visit our previous blog post to learn more about what kind of tree damage you should be on the lookout for!

Photo credits: Urban Horticulture Institute, Cornell University; Dr. David L. Roberts, Michigan State University; Paul Wray, Iowa State University,;

2014 Winter Moth Survey

It’s that time of year again: winter moths and other related species have started to show up at porch lights across the state. 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.

In mid-to-late fall, at a time of year where insect activity is practically at a standstill, these small brown winter moths will be seen across the eastern half of the state, sometimes congregating at porch lights by the hundreds. There are other similar-looking native moths active at this time of year, such as the Bruce spanworm moth and the fall cankerworm moth, but they are typically not seen in such large numbers. While the state does not regulate winter moth, some towns/cities do tree treatments, and the Elkinton Lab at University of Massachusetts Amherst currently has a biological control program underway.

Male and female winter moth. Females have tiny, vestigial wings and are flightless.

If you see winter moths this November or December, we’d like to hear from you using the survey below. The information you share will help assess the distribution of this invasive pest in our state.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the 2014 Winter Moth Survey. The survey is now closed, we will report the results soon.

Helpful links:

  • For more information on winter moth biology and management, see this fact sheet from UMass Extension.
  • For more examples of male and female winter moths and related species, see this photo gallery.
  • If you would like to email a photo, please use our Pest Reporting Form.

August is Tree Check Month!

Asian longhorned beetleemerald ash borerHave you checked your trees for signs of invasive forest pests? Insects like Asian Longhorned Beetle and Emerald Ash Borer are a threat to trees across Massachusetts. This month, we’re asking everyone to take just 10 minutes to check the trees in their yard or in nearby parks or forests, and to report any suspicious tree damage. Read below for tips on how to recognize the signs of Asian longhorned beetle and emerald ash borer damage, and how to report possible sightings.

Save the Trees – Spot their Enemies

30,000 of something is a difficult number to imagine. It’s even more staggering to envision 30,000 trees disappearing, but that is how many hardwood trees have been lost so far to the Asian Longhorned Beetle in the greater Worcester area. Asian Longhorned Beetle (“ALB”, scientific name Anoplophora glabripennis) is an invasive pest that was discovered in Worcester in 2008, making 2013 the 5th anniversary of this discovery. It causes damage by tunneling deep into live trees, destroying them from the inside out. That makes this invasive insect a threat to hardwood trees throughout the state, and one that could have a serious negative impact on fall foliage tourism, the maple sugaring industry, and other forest product industries. No one is sure how ALB got to Massachusetts, but we do know that it was introduced to the USA accidentally, through wooden pallets and crates used to ship goods here from Asia. Now that it is here, the risk of infested wood being transported around makes it even more important for everyone to learn to recognize the signs of an ALB infestation and to promptly report any suspicious tree damage. If pests like ALB are detected early, the impact on trees is much less severe. For example, the ALB infestation in Worcester wasn’t discovered until more than a decade after it started, giving it years to spread and resulting in the loss of those 30,000 trees. But an infestation of ALB in Boston discovered in 2010, just two to three years after it started, resulted in only six infested trees needing to be removed. Eradication was declared in May of 2014, after just four years of survey efforts!

The best defense against ALB is a good offense. Learn the signs of Asian Longhorned Beetle and report any suspicious insects or damaged trees:

ALB Identification: ALB is shiny black with bright white spots and long black-and-white banded antennae. The adult stage of ALB is active from about July to when a hard frost hits. It can sometimes be confused with native species such as the Whitespotted Sawyer, which is also black with white spots and long banded antennae, but can be distinguished from ALB by its lack of shininess, smaller and sparser white spots, and the presence of a white half-circle marking at the top center of its wing covers.

Tree Damage: The most easily recognizable ALB tree damage is the perfectly round exit hole, about 3/8” in diameter (a bit smaller than a dime), that the adult beetle makes when it bores out of the tree:

ALB Exit Hole

Female beetles make small divots in the bark of the tree when they lay eggs. These divots are about ½” wide and may appear orange when they are first made, though they turn gray as they age. If you look closely you can also see marks on the edges of these divots, made by the mandibles (mouthparts) of the beetle:

Egg Laying Sites

Also keep an eye out for “frass,” a sawdust-like material excreted by ALB larvae and adults as they chew their way through the wood. Frass on its own is not a definitive sign of ALB, but if you see it accumulating at the base of a tree or in the crooks of branches, be sure to check the entire tree for signs of exit holes or egg-laying sites.


The major host trees for ALB are maple, elm, willow, birch, and horse chestnut. ALB also attacks ash, poplar, and several other hardwood trees. It does not attack oak, fruit trees or softwoods (conifers like pine, fir and spruce). Eradication: The Asian Longhorned Beetle Cooperative Eradication Program, a cooperative effort between the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Mass. Dept. of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), and the Mass. Dept. of Agricultural Resources (MDAR), is working towards the eradication of this beetle from our state. As part of this process, a 110 square mile regulated area has been set in Worcester County that includes Worcester, Boylston, Shrewsbury, West Boylston, part of Holden and a small segment of Auburn. There is also a 10 square mile regulated area encompassing parts of Boston and Brookline. These regulated areas restrict the movement of host trees, including firewood, since this can unintentionally spread ALB. In addition to enforcement, the program surveys for and removes infested trees, oversees replanting efforts, and provides educational outreach.

Detection for Protection – Managing Emerald Ash Borer in Massachusetts

Another foe of trees that was recently discovered in Massachusetts is the Emerald Ash Borer (“EAB”, scientific name Agrilus planipennis). EAB only attacks one type of tree, the ash, but the arrival of this wood-boring beetle is no less of a threat to the forest ecosystem or to the economic livelihood of firewood producers, loggers, and other forest product specialists, particularly in Western Massachusetts where ash is more prevalent. Ash is also frequently planted as a street tree or shade tree, which means that there are a lot of trees at risk in urban areas and throughout the eastern part of the state as well. The first confirmed find of EAB in Massachusetts was in the town of Dalton, part of Berkshire County, in August 2012. Based on the experiences of other states, we know that, unfortunately, EAB cannot be eradicated. EAB is expected to spread much further and faster than ALB, potentially leaving thousands of dead ash trees in its wake. Through early detection, we hope to slow the spread of this pest, giving communities more time to prepare and to make important decisions about how to manage their ash trees. Currently, Berkshire County is quarantined to prevent the spread of this forest pest via the movement of wood, especially firewood. EAB was most recently discovered in Suffolk County at the Arnold Arboretum; a quarantine in that area has not yet been established. Help slow the spread of EAB by learning the signs of this pest and reporting any suspicious sightings.

EAB Identification: EAB is a small, shiny, emerald green beetle, so small that seven of them could fit on the head of a penny! Adult beetles are active from May through August, but typically stay high in the trees and are difficult to spot.

Tree Damage: The damage caused by EAB can kill an ash tree in just a few years. Rather than boring into the heartwood of the tree like ALB, EAB larvae tunnel directly under the bark, creating S-shaped galleries that quickly cut off a tree’s nutrient and water supply:

EAB galleries under bark

Woodpecker damage increases because the larvae are easily accessible by these birds. “Blonding” is the most distinctive indicator of an EAB infestation and is caused by woodpecker damage as the birds search for larvae and pupa to eat. Unfortunately, woodpeckers do not consume EAB larvae on a level high enough to slow down or stop their spread.

"Blonding" due to increased woodpecker damage

When an EAB reaches adulthood and bores its way out of the tree, it leaves a small D-shaped exit hole about 1/4” in diameter:

EAB exit hole

Other signs of EAB infestation include dieback of the upper third of the tree’s canopy, increased woodpecker activity, and the presence of epicormic shoots (small branches that emerge in shrub-like bunches below the dead parts of the tree):

Ash tree with heavy EAB infestation

Ash trees are vulnerable to many other pests and diseases that cause some of the same symptoms. But if you see the above 3 symptoms together, report it just to be sure. Upon the discovery of Emerald Ash Borer in Dalton, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan commented, “The greatest assets we have in fighting these invasive species are everyday citizens. Understanding and being alert to the warning signs of infestation can save entire forests.”

Stop the Spread!

Anyone can contribute to stopping the spread of ALB and EAB in our state. Here are three suggestions for what you can do to help:

  1. Take ten minutes and survey your own property for signs of both beetles.
  2. Organize a talk and/or survey for a local group or organization in your area.
  3. Buy firewood only where you intend to burn it, and chip wood onsite following yard work or storm cleanup. Don’t move wood long distances because you could be accidentally spreading pests.

To learn more about these pests, or to report possible sightings, visit the following websites:

To book a FREE program or request free educational materials, please contact:

  • Stacy Kilb, 617-626-1764,

For all the latest information about invasive pests and plant disease in Massachusetts:

Photo credits:

Parasitic wasps aid Emerald Ash Borer control efforts in Massachusetts

There has been a lot in the news lately about Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis, “EAB”), including recent finds of this pest in both Berkshire County (Dalton, Pittsfield, and surrounding towns) and Essex County (North Andover and Methuen) in Massachusetts. Considered the most destructive pest in North America, EAB has already spread to 23 states, causing billions in economic damage and leaving millions of dead ash trees in its wake. This tiny, metallic green insect creates S-shaped galleries just underneath the bark in the cambium layer, where water and nutrients are transported. This effectively cuts off the tree’s food supply, meaning that EAB can kill an ash tree within 3-5 years of infestation.

Emerald Ash Borer, Agrilus planipennis

(photo credit, right: Joshua P. Basham, Tennessee State University)

With no sign of EAB’s spread stopping, researchers have turned to several different options in dealing with this invasive forest pest. One promising strategy is the release of parasitic wasps that act as a biological control (“biocontrol”). These wasps, native to the same part of Asia as EAB, are host-specific, meaning they will only prey on Emerald Ash Borer. The two species currently being used are Tetrastichus planipennisi and Oobius agrili. Research has found that T. planipennisi parasitize up to 50% of EAB larvae, while O. agrili parasitize up to 60% of EAB eggs. The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) has identified 4 sites, 1 in North Andover and 3 in Dalton and Windsor, for the release of these parasitic wasps. So far, only T. planipennisi has been released in North Andover and Dalton. Further releases for this species and O. agrili are planned for later this summer.

Photos, left to right: Tetrastichus planipennisi and Oobius agrili

(photo credit: Dr. Houping Liu, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources)

Biocontrol is just one way the state is working to combat the spread of EAB. You can help aid these efforts by reporting signs of EAB damage or get out in the field and join our Massachusetts Wasp Watchers Volunteer Program. Read about a first-hand experience with the Wasp Watchers Program at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Great Outdoors blog.