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

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

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.

Meet the BeetleBot!

What looks like an Asian Longhorned Beetle, but doesn’t threaten our trees and natural resources?  The BeetleBot!

This terrifying machination resembles the invasive insect currently located in central Massachusetts. The real beetle targets hardwood trees, especially maples, but this robotic replica’s only goal is to educate and entertain. It was featured at the It’s A Bug’s World expo, held this year in Newport, RI. Tree surveyors from USDA and DCR, who inspect host trees in the Worcester area for signs of damage, showcased the BeetleBot to raise awareness of the invasive insect, to the delight of families that attended the show. Over 500 visitors came to see the BeetleBot and learn about ALB, see the live insects on display, and talk to experts in the field of entomology.

Guests admire the BeetleBot on display

Now that the show has ended, BeetleBot has moved to its permanent home at the EcoTarium in Worcester, MA, where it is being used in public education programs. It might also make an appearance at the Ecotarium’s Earth Day festivities.

If you wish to learn more about Asian Longhorned Beetle, our blog here is a good starting point, as is our website

Stopping Forest Pests at the Source

Are you a Massachusetts landscaper that imports/distributes stone and or tile materials for use in construction or landscaping? If so, we’d like to hear from you!

Stone and other hardscape materials shipped in wood packaging, such as crates and pallets, can serve as pathways through which invasive pests like emerald ash borer (EAB) and the newly discovered spotted lanternfly make their way into our state. Unchecked, these pests pose a threat to our natural resources, and have the potential to do millions of dollars in damages to our economy.

The Forest Pest Outreach Project, part of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, is asking for your assistance in evaluating how to better equip those that work in the landscaping and hardscaping industries with techniques to help stop invasive pests at their point of entry and/or prevent their potential spread. If you are a local business owner or a member of the landscaping industry that deals directly with stone importing/distribution (especially Pennsylvania bluestone), we would like to schedule a time with you to visit your business and discuss the nature of stone/tile imports and distribution as it pertains to accidental pest introductions.

While participation is voluntary, your assistance will further safeguard our state against the threat of invasive species and help create resources to prevent future introductions.

To schedule a meeting or get any additional information, contact Javier Marin, the Forest Pest Outreach Coordinator, at, or call 617-626-1738.

can secretly carry this!

Sometimes this…

Don’t Move Firewood! Protecting Campgrounds and our Natural Resources

Though it’s cold outside now, the spring camping season is rapidly approaching! While many campers like to bring their own firewood to campsites, the invasive wood-boring insects Asian Longhorned Beetle and Emerald Ash Borer make frequent use of firewood to transport themselves to new infestation sites. Worcester has already lost 36,000 trees to date due to the ALB, so the economic and environmental risk these invasive pests pose to the rest of New England’s hardwood forests is immense.


In order to help spread awareness of these pests and the risk they pose, we offer a variety of free outreach materials, including ID cards, pamphlets, and laminated posters suitable for display outdoors. We also offer “Don’t Move Firewood” material that encourages campers to buy their own firewood at campsites. You can order your free materials at here

Campers should be aware of the risks involved in moving firewood, even to nearby towns. It is a good idea to be aware of where at each campground you can purchase firewood.

If you want to update your campground’s website with information pertaining to invasive forest, here is some suggested wording:
Bringing firewood from home when you go camping could put your favorite campsite in danger. Tree-killing insects and diseases can hitchhike in firewood and 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:

It is the responsibility of all Massachusetts citizens and visitors to make sure we are preserving our natural resources, and being aware of these invasive insects and how to combat their spread is part of that.


Calling All 5th Grade Arborists and Artists!

The 2016 contest’s winning entry, with the theme Trees Grow With Us and For Us

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 2017 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 “Trees are Terrific…from Berkshires to Bay!” 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, the trees that thrive there, their specific characteristics, and how they impact your daily lives.  Tree diversity is important for a successful ecosystem, especially in the face of invasive forest pests such as Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) ( and Emerald Ash Borer (

This is a great opportunity to promote your school and your message about biodiversity and forestry here in the Bay State. One of your students may even win prizes, including art supplies or a tree on your school property!

We would be especially interested in posters that discuss ALB or other forest pests and the trees they target as preferred hosts; many native trees iconic to the Massachusetts landscape are targets of invasive pests.  We are not involved in judging posters, but posters that discuss invasive pests, even if they are not finalists, may be displayed here to promote our message of pest awareness!  We’ll even display winning entries here on our blog!

The deadline for submission is March 15th 2017, 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 the wide diversity of trees here in Massachusetts!

Winter Moth Survey Update 2016

Milan Zubrik, Forest Research Institute Slovakia

Winter Moth Adult

The winter moth flight came and went this fall, and numbers were so low, you might not have noticed them at all…

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. Adult flight typically begins in November and will continue through late December or early January.  During this time, female winter moths can lay up to 150 eggs each, which will hatch into hungry caterpillars in spring.

Whereas our annual winter moth survey typically gets over a thousand responses each year, we only received 75 responses between November 2016 and January 2017. The low number of responses is strongly linked to the fact that winter moth adult populations were down significantly this year.  But this decrease in activity was not totally unexpected.  Last year, winter moth populations fell due to some unusual weather that encouraged the caterpillars to hatch before tree buds opened, leaving them without a source of food. Additionally, the parasitic fly Cyzenis albicans has been establishing at release sites throughout eastern Massachusetts and is also contributing to reductions in winter moth populations.

Winter Moth Caterpillar

However, that doesn’t mean that winter moth is going away any time soon.  Even if winter moth populations are low in spring of 2017, they can still rebound.  For homeowners who want to treat their trees for winter moths please see this winter moth fact sheet for more information about dealing with this pest.


Photo credits: Milan Zubrik, Forest Research Institute Slovakia,