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
Photo by R. Childs
Of the 2200+ responses received in our survey the counties with the highest number of participants were:
However, the individual towns with the most respondents were:
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.
The results are in… Massachusetts 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!
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.
Nathan Siegert, US Forest Service, provides participants an overview of EAB.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- Consider offering local firewood for sale at your campground, or provide campers with a list of local, preferred firewood dealers.
- 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 http://bit.ly/FPOMOrder.
- 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: www.dontmovefirewood.org
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.
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.