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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

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