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

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!


2015 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.

The survey for 2015 is now closed. Thank you for your participation. The information you share will help assess the distribution of this invasive pest in our state.

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.

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,;