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

Seasonal Reminder

With the temperatures dropping, people’s thoughts are turning towards firewood to stay warm.  A recent announcement from USDA reminds citizens of how firewood and woody plant material can serve as a vector for Asian longhorned beetle (ALB). Adult ALB are poor flyers but the larva can remain in wood that may be transported, making human activity the primary method of spreading this pest. The Worcester area remains under a quarantine, so moving firewood outside of the 110 square mile area is not allowed.

To help prevent ALB from spreading, there are a few things home and business owners can do and keep in mind.

First, know which trees in Massachusetts are considered ALB host trees. While all firewood and woody plant material needs to be treated as if it’s host material (since it’s difficult to tell what kind of tree firewood might have come from), it is useful to be able to identify trees that ALB can use as a host tree. A full list of host trees can be found here.

Any woody plant material you are disposing of, such as firewood, fallen tree branches or felled lumber, or any wood that is more than half an inch in diameter, needs to be properly disposed of if it’s not burned. The wood disposal site at Ararat St. in Worcester is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM – 3:30 PM and can be accessed by companies with valid compliance agreements.

If you or your company works with ALB host material in the regulated area in and around Worcester, you must receive yearly compliance training. Call 508-852-8110 to reserve a spot. Training sessions are held regularly at the APHIS office in Worcester.

If you purchase firewood for your own home or to use at campsites, make sure you are buying it locally and from a trusted supplier who has gone through the compliance training.

If you need outreach materials related to ALB, you can order them free of charge here: http://bit.ly/FPOMOrder
You may refer to this website for any questions you might have about firewood.

Massachusetts Day and September Outreach Recap

As usual, September was one of our busiest outreach seasons!  The annual Big E event was the highlight of the month and maybe the year, and provided an excellent opportunity to reach a wide audience and educate them about Asian longhorned beetle and other invasive insects.

We were excited to attend Massachusetts Day at the Big E again this year, where we reached out to school groups on field trips and people from all over New England. We had a constant flow of visitors to our booth outside the Massachusetts building, where we answered questions about invasive insects, and heard concerns from property owners about the health and safety of their trees.  The ALB costume and the new ALB faceboard showed up too and proved to be very popular! We also had plenty of materials and information at the MDAR booth inside the building, including our new and popular ALB erasers.

Other events we attended this September included Worcester’s StART on the Street and the New England Public Works Expo. These events catered to very different audiences but were both very successful. Whether it was families out to enjoy a day of good weather and local art or public works officials such as tree wardens, we were able to answer a lot of questions and give out hundreds of items (the most popular item? Our custom-designed buttons and magnets!)

We attended a new event this year, Hey Day at the Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary. Surrounded by protected former farmland, tractor rides, and live music, we were able to reach out to a new audience just outside the ALB regulated area.  While many of the visitors who stopped by our table had already heard of ALB, for many others it was a new learning experience!

Our forest pest outreach program also participated in Mass Audubon’s 13th annual Rockin’ with Raptors event at the Boston Nature Center. There we distributed forest pest outreach materials like buttons, stickers and beetle antenna headbands as attendees met and learned about the various predatory birds of New England.

Did you see us at any of our September events? If you missed us and would like to receive any outreach materials, you can order them at http://bit.ly/FPOMOrder

Tree Northampton Presentations

In August we helped put together a series of presentations for the nonprofit urban ecological stewardship group Tree Northampton (http://www.treenorthampton.org) after director Jonathan Gottsche contacted us looking to come up with presentations tailored to tree professionals, conservation volunteers, and members of the public interested in tree health.

Tree Northampton wanted to learn more about the Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) infestation in Worcester, including the history of the invasion, the response, and successes of the program. They also wanted to learn about other invasive threats to native trees that could impact Northampton. We arranged for two separate events: a presentation in Florence covering invasive pests that impact Massachusetts, and a field trip to Worcester to see firsthand the damage caused by ALB. The Florence presentation was done by Ken Gooch and Nicole Keleher of DCR, and the Worcester field trip and presentation was led by Linda Hubley and Louis Adams of the ALB Cooperative Eradication Program located in Worcester.

The Florence presentation covered 6 different invasive threats: ALB, emerald ash borer, southern pine beetle, winter moth, oak wilt disease, and pine wilt. Feedback from attendees was positive, with many asking for additional programs in the future and praising the competence and knowledge of the speakers.

Later in the month members of Tree Northampton took a tour of the streets and neighborhoods of Worcester that have been impacted by ALB. Seeing the damage and results of recovery efforts first-hand helped bring the scale of the infestation into sharp perspective. As one attendee noted:

This workshop and field trip was an excellent day of learning about Asian Longhorn Beetle signs, biology, and process of handling the crisis. The Powerpoint presentation given by Lou Adams and the samples of ALB damage were eye-opening, and clearly illustrated the insect and the issue.  As a member of the Northampton Public Shade Tree Commission, I found it extremely useful to understand the complexity of the coordinated effort involved in setting up and running a Command Incident System.  I had never imagined the degree of planning and effort that goes into responding to an ALB outbreak.  The field trip brought to life what we’d learned indoors, and once again reinforced the scale of the problem.  While it was sobering and sad to see once tree-lined streets now open and sunny, the extensive new plantings of resistant trees were encouraging.

Another participant commented, “Now it makes much more sense.” A succinct reminder of the power an experience like this brief trip can have.

Our outreach program is always happy to help arrange programs and presentations, free of charge, focusing on Asian longhorned beetle and other invasive insects. If your group is interested in a program for green industry professionals, elementary school classrooms, scouts, or other audiences, please contact Joshua Bruckner at 617-626-1764 or at joshua.bruckner@state.ma.us

Hey, that’s not ALB! Graphisurus beetle

Massachusetts is home to several native species of longhorned beetle, many of which bear some resemblance to the destructive invasive pest Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) (Anaplophora glabripennis). The Graphisurus beetle (Graphisurus fasciatus) has some similarities to ALB but can be distinguished in a few key ways. Though it shares the long antennae and long splayed legs of ALB, it is typically less than an inch long, about half the size of ALB. Also, Graphisurus is brownish in color with a mottled pattern, very different from ALB’s stark white spots on black. Finally, the female Graphisurus beetle has a distinct elongated back segment that protrudes beyond the wing cases, while ALB does not.

The Graphisurus beetle prefers oak as its host tree to feed on and lay eggs, and like sawyer beetles, targets dead or dying trees. The beetles are also sometimes attracted to artificial lights at night, whereas ALB is not.

Any suspicious beetles or tree damage can be reported here. Be sure to get a picture of collect the specimen.

Hey, that’s not ALB! Northeastern sawyer

Northeastern sawyer

While keeping an eye out for Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) this season, be aware of the several harmless native lookalike species you may encounter. For example, the northeastern sawyer (Monochamus notatus) strongly resembles the whitespotted pine sawyer and thus is similar to ALB.

The northeastern sawyer is our largest native longhorn beetle, about as large as ALB, but the difference in color and pattern sets it apart: it can be distinguished from ALB by its dull grey color and lack of pattern on its wing covers (the antennae may appear banded, but they won’t be as vivid as they are on ALB). Additionally, while adult ALB will be found on living hardwood trees, the northeastern sawyer targets dead or dying conifers. Both adult and larval northeastern sawyers prefer to eat the rotting wood of conifers such as pine, spruce, and fir, versus the live, fresh hardwood required by ALB.

Adult northeastern sawyers are active from May through September, so they will begin dying off while Asian longhorned beetles are still active (through the first hard frost).

Any sightings of suspicious beetle or tree damage can be reported here. Be sure to get a picture or collect the specimen.

It’s Tree Check Month!

Emerald Ash BorerDid you know that this August has been officially recognized by the US Department of Agriculture as Tree Check Month? Insects like Asian longhorned beetle and emerald ash borer currently threaten hardwood forests in Massachusetts, and Tree Check Month is the perfect time to check your trees for signs of damage. Take ten minutes of your time to find out how to spot signs of damage from these insects and to check your trees to ensure their health and survival!

Both beetles target hardwood trees, a valuable part of our forests, wildlife, economy, and tourism industry. Emerald ash borer primarily goes after ash, but Asian longhorned beetle targets a wide variety of common hardwood trees, including maple, elm, birch, willow and poplar. With maple the preferred host of ALB, this is a pest of great concern for all of New England. Due to the long time it takes ALB to kill one tree (8-10 years), and the slow speed at which it spreads, it is possible to contain and eradicate Asian longhorned beetle infestations. Once ALB was discovered in Worcester back in 2008, a cooperative eradication program began, led by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), that has resulted in a significant decline in the levels of ALB in the Greater Worcester area. But the eradication program still has a lot of work to do, and even though they have surveyors actively surveying for damage, they still depend on input from the public to alert them to new or missed infestations.

Tree Check Month is an ideal time to search for Asian longhorned beetle (ALB), since this is when the adults are most active. They can be identified by their long white-and-black banded antennae and black body with white spots but you are more likely to see tree damage than the beetles themselves. Typical signs of damage on trees include:

Perfectly round pencil-sized holes

Shallow oval scars that serve as egg sites

Long matchstick-like “frass” that indicates presence of larvae

Another pest we are concerned about in Massachusetts, the emerald ash borer (EAB), mainly targets ash trees. Due to the rapidity with which it kills trees, this invasive insect is difficult to contain and eradicate. However, reporting signs of EAB damage is still important, to alert cities and towns where the beetle could cause problems, to allow them to prepare for EAB’s arrival, and to eliminate safety hazards posed by dying ash trees. The adult beetle is small and iridescent green, with a coppery or purple color beneath the wing case. But just like ALB, you are more likely to see tree damage than the beetle. Search ash trees for these four signs of EAB damage and report any suspicious finds:

D-shaped exit hole on trees

S-shaped tunnels and galleries underneath the bark created by larva

“Blonding” due to woodpeckers stripping the bark of trees when they search for larvae

Crown dieback and shoots on the lower part of the tree

Be proactive about stopping the spread of these and other invasive insects by taking ten minutes this month to check the trees where you live or work for signs of damage. If you do find any signs or think you see a suspicious beetle, report it at our pest reporting website.

Hey, that’s not ALB! The Brown Prionid

Submitted by an intrepid Massachusetts resident, and used with permission

Lately we have been receiving reports through our Asian longhorned beetle reporting system of another Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) lookalike, the brown prionid (Orthosoma brunneum). Though it is also a species of longhorned beetle, the brown prionid is a native species, and can be distinguished by its overall brown color and its lack of patterns on the wings or antennae. Prionids lay their eggs in rotting wood for the larva to eventually feed on, whereas adult ALB feed on tree leaves and lay their eggs on still-living trees. Prionids also make distinct squeaking sounds as a form of defense, so if the longhorned beetle you find is brown and making a squeaking noise, it’s not ALB.

Any suspicious insects or tree damage, even if you are uncertain about what it is, should be reported through our website.

ALB is Active!

It’s July, which means adult Asian Longhorned Beetle (“ALB”) (Anaplophora glabripennis) have emerged from their trees and are now active! Adult ALBs can be identified by the speckled patterns on their shiny wings and their long black-and-white banded antennae.

Adults will be active from now through November, or whenever the first hard frost hits, so keep your eye out for these beetles until then!

Be on the lookout for broadnecked root borers (Prionus laticollis), an ALB lookalike also active this time of year. It can be distinguished from ALB from the lack of spots on its dark back and shorter, plain black antennae. They also have a wider body shape than ALB, whose bodies are more elongated. Root borers are considered a pest but are native species. They are typically found on the ground, where they feed on roots, in contrast to adult ALB which feed on tree leaves.

If you see an Asian longhorned beetle or an insect you think is ALB, or find suspicious damage on a tree, send photos and descriptions to https://massnrc.org/pests/albreport.aspx

New ALB Materials!

Our program has recently acquired some new items to educate the public about Asian Longhorned Beetle!  We now have these ALB erasers.  They have a fun ALB image and message and will serve as a reminder to check your trees for signs of beetle damage throughout the summer.  They’re also perfect for summer camps or school, or any art project (I’ve tried them. They work very well).

 

We’re also bringing back our ALB bookmarks with fun antennae-shaped tops, great for schools and libraries, especially with summer reading programs happening now.

All these materials, as well as any others that you have seen on this blog, can be ordered free of charge here

Hey, That’s Not ALB!

It’s that time of year again! Every spring, when outside temperatures start to heat up, we get reports from people concerned that they’ve see the invasive Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB). Luckily, ALB 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 known as Whitespotted Pine Sawyers.

The whitespotted sawyer (Monochamus scutellatus) is a native beetle that attacks diseased and damaged pine trees. It emerges from trees earlier in the season than Asian longhorned beetles (“ALB”), which is not expected to be seen in Massachusetts until July. Both beetles are black with white spots and long, black-and-white banded antennae. But sawyers are not as shiny as ALB, they have smaller and duller white markings, and they have a distinct, white, half-circle marking at the top center of their wing covers. Use this image to compare:

Asian Longhorned Beetle vs. Whitespotted Pine Sawyer

If you think you’ve seen an Asian longhorned beetle, or you aren’t sure what you’ve seen, it’s always better to get a photo or capture the specimen and then report it.