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

Calling All 5th Grade Arborists and Artists!

pictured is 2017’s winning entry from Elm Street School, with the theme Trees are Terrific…from Berkshires to Bay!

Are you a 5th grade teacher or a 5th grade student with a passion for art or nature?  Then we have the perfect opportunity for you! The Department of Conservation and Recreation has announced its 2018 Arbor Day Poster Contest, a chance to win cool prizes for your school by showing off your artistic talent and knowledge of the diverse trees of Massachusetts!

This year’s theme is “My Community, My Trees” and is open to all fifth grade students in Massachusetts, including homeschoolers. If your students are interested in entering, we encourage them to research Massachusetts ecosystems, urban forests, native trees, and how trees impact your lives. Knowing about your community’s trees and how to identify and protect them is an important part of protecting them against invasive forest pests such as Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) and Emerald Ash Borer. The Arbor Day Contest is also a great opportunity to promote your school and your message about trees and forestry here in the Bay State.

We would be especially interested in hearing from you about posters that feature ALB or other forest pests and the trees they target.  While we are not involved in judging posters, posters that discuss invasive pests, even if they are not finalists, may be displayed here to promote our message of pest awareness!  We’ll also display winning entries here on our blog!

The deadline for submission is March 15th 2018, with winners announced in April. Only one poster may be submitted per school.  Please be sure to follow all instructions when submitting a poster.  A full list of rules can be found here.

Good luck, and have fun researching trees in Massachusetts!

Our January Outreach Impact

January is always a busy month for us, and serves as a perfect tone setter for the new year’s outreach. Even when it’s cold and snowy out there’s plenty of opportunities to inform different sectors of the public about Asian longhorned beetle and other threats to our Massachusetts forests!

Our first event was the Massachusetts Tree Wardens and Foresters Association annual meeting. This gathering was a mix of tree professionals and town employees from across the state seeking information about tree management practices and conservation efforts. The forest pest outreach program was there to inform them how to identify and report pests of concern. Tawny Simisky of UMass Extension School gave a talk about invasive insects including winter moth, gypsy moth, emerald ash borer, short-needle evergreen scale, and spotted lanternfly. Though lanternfly has not yet been found in Massachusetts, we took this opportunity to educate people on this destructive pest at our outreach table as well.

Spotted lanternfly ID cards that were available at our booth and available for distribution

The Massachusetts Municipal Association’s annual meeting is one of our biggest events each year, with over 1200 people attending this year. Attendees were a mix of municipal employees, town council members, and the general public. In addition to talking about the ongoing Asian longhorned beetle infestation and eradication program in Worcester, we were able to share information with numerous people who worked in or near towns with confirmed emerald ash borer infestations, setting the stage for future outreach and presentations to make action plans on pest control.

John Lebeaux, the MDAR Commissioner, stopped by our table to talk about invasive pests and our outreach efforts

The New England Fishing and Outdoor Expo provides an opportunity to reach outdoor enthusiasts, a very different but equally crucial audience – the general public has been responsible for many past detections of Asian longhorned beetle and emerald ash borer.

A glimpse at some of the vendors at the Fishing and Outdoor Expo

Throughout January we were able to impact over 300 people and distribute more than 1500 different items. It’s been a strong start to the year, and we plan on continuing our successful efforts through the rest of 2018!

2017 Emerald Ash Borer Expansion

In 2017 we saw more emerald ash borer (EAB) detections in Massachusetts than any previous year on record. Nine new municipalities, including a new record for Norfolk County, were added to the list of infested areas. The communities in which EAB was detected included:

• Berkshire Country- West Stockbridge
• Hampshire County- Easthampton, Northampton, and South Hadley
• Middlesex County- Shirley and Waltham
• Norfolk County – Brookline, Dedham
• Essex County- Georgetown

There are now a total of 26 municipalities in 8 counties where EAB has been found.

These detections were discovered using a combination of methods, including active surveillance, trapping, and reports from the public made to the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources’ EAB Reporting Form. In Brookline, a number of beetles were caught mid-summer using pheromone traps.

While Brookline marked the first community in Norfolk County to be confirmed to have EAB, it was quickly followed by the town of Dedham, where a member of the town’s Conservation Commission reported a potentially infested ash tree near the Wigwam Pond area. MDAR forwarded the report to the DCR Forest Health Program, who confirmed through inspection that a number of trees showed signs of EAB damage. Like Dedham, a report to MDAR from a concerned resident in the town of Shirley led officials to inspect a suspected EAB site which was also later confirmed to be positive.The infestations in Waltham and Georgetown were discovered by MDAR’s biosurveillance program, Mass. Wasp Watchers.

Monitoring done by DCR’s Forest Health Program also led authorities to the Bachelor Brook-Stony Brook Conservation Area, owned by the town of South Hadley, and the Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Northampton and Easthampton. Inspections of natural ash stands in the area were conducted in conjunction with representatives of The Nature Conservancy and Mass Audubon. It is suspected that the infestations found there have been present for at least two to three years.

As EAB continues its spread, towns and cities adjacent to known infestations are being encouraged to check their own ash trees for signs of damage. MDAR is also fostering the development of EAB Community Action teams in these high priority areas. Teams receive educational materials to spread awareness, as well in field training to better identify and report any suspected EAB infestations.Communities are also urged to create EAB Management Plans to better mitigate the potential impacts to their ash trees.

If you suspect you have seen EAB in an area not indicated on the list above, get a photo of the damage if you can, and report it here.

Emerald ash borer specimens caught in Georgetown by MDAR staff while Wasp Watching in Essex County.

Where are the ALB now?

With the cold now upon us, adult Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) have since died off, but their life cycle continues unseen.  At this point, the larvae have long since hatched and burrowed into any tree that their eggs were laid on, and that is where the real damage from this invasive insect is occurring. From the site where the egg was deposited, a newly-hatched larva chews its way into the tree, where it creates hollow galleries. The larva initially starts in the cambium layer, which is the living layer of wood just under the bark, responsible for the transportation of water and nutrients. It then keeps going into the heartwood, the interior of the tree. The galleries it creates lead to structural damage and ultimately the death of the tree. Trees may respond with compartmentalization, a process where trees grow new thick tissue to partition off damage and resume the flow of nutrients through the cambium layer. However, in trees that sustain heavy damage from ALB, this process is insufficient and the tree eventually dies.

ALB larva in gallery

Deep inside the host trees, ALB larvae and pupae can easily survive the snow and cold winter months ahead. They are so deep inside the tree that they are also protected from predators like woodpeckers who might want to make a meal out of a defenseless grub.

ALB pupa in gallery with frass

That means that at this time of year, while you will not see the beetle itself, the larva are still there inside the tree, chewing away. Fortunately, you can still spot external signs of damage on host trees, such as eggs sites or exit holes. If you see any of these telltale signs of damage, report them by submitting descriptions and pictures of damage to our website. You can also refer to and print out guides showing the host trees of ALB here.

Exit hole from adult beetle, with egg sites, on tree

Egg site on surface of host tree

2017 Exotic Plant Pest and Pathogen Survey Results

As part of the Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey (CAPS) program in 2017, Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources staff designed and implemented a number of surveys to detect exotic 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 37 Massachusetts nurseries for the following exotic pests and plants:

None of the above target species were found.

2. Staff also performed insect pest surveys using pheromone traps at 30 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 2017 to conduct a survey of Massachusetts stonefruit orchards. Stonefruits including peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots and cherries are an important specialty crop in our state. Twenty orchards were checked for the presence of the following pests:

Fifteen additional orchards were surveyed for Plum Pox Virus.

None of the above target species were found.

4. MDAR staff monitored colonies of a ground-nesting, jewel beetle-hunting wasp called the Smoky-Winged Beetle Bandit (Cerceris fumipennis) for the following pests:

None of the above target species were found.

For more information about the Smoky Winged Beetle Bandit (Cerceris fumipennis), please visit Cerceris.info

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

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.