For Immediate Release - August 28, 2012

State Agriculture and Forestry Officials Urge Forest Pest Awareness

BOSTON – Tuesday, August 28, 2012 -- The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) is reminding residents to remain vigilant against invasive forest pests that can spell danger for the Commonwealth’s trees.

The Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) was discovered in Worcester, Massachusetts four years ago this month. While the battle to contain this invasive pest continues, another threat to trees, the emerald ash borer (EAB), has been discovered in neighboring New York and Connecticut.

To underscore the importance of making pest awareness a statewide effort, the Patrick-Murray Administration has declared August Forest Pest Awareness Month.

“As a resident of Worcester, I have experienced first-hand the impact of the Asian Longhorned Beetle and it is important that we raise awareness to help protect all Massachusetts communities from the spread of invasive insects," said Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray. "Our Administration continues to collaborate with local partners to increase awareness and work together to eradicate the spread of these pests and replant trees in communities impacted by the Asian Longhorned Beetle.”

“The greatest assets we have in fighting these invasive species are everyday citizens,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan. “Understanding and being alert to the warning signs of infestation can save entire forests.”

“Our continued and aggressive efforts to educate the public about these invasive and destructive pests are absolutely essential to our efforts to contain the spread of forest pests in our state,” said DAR Commissioner Greg Watson.

State and federal government as well as local green industry and environmental groups have been working hard to get the word out about ALB and EAB. This month, DAR has started outreach activities, including a Forest Pest Outreach and Survey Project mailing to all the state’s public libraries. In each packet is a copy of the Asian longhorned beetle documentary “Lurking in the Trees,” a pack of Asian longhorned beetle identification cards and a list of free outreach materials to encourage libraries to set up their own forest pest educational displays.

"The Nature Conservancy is very pleased that DAR is sending ‘Lurking in the Trees’ to libraries across the Commonwealth," said Leigh Greenwood, manager of The Nature Conservancy's Don't Move Firewood campaign. "This movie highlights the critical importance of remembering to leave firewood at home to prevent the spread of pests, and teaches everyone how helpful it is for the public to look for new or unusual insects in their trees and forests. Working together, educational efforts like this can help save trees across the nation."

“We are very pleased to have information on this topic at the Shrewsbury Public Library. Shrewsbury has been greatly impacted by the Asian longhorned beetle challenge, so we appreciate having clear and understandable information to display and give to patrons,” said Ellen Dolan, director at the Shrewsbury Public Library. “Distributing such information through the public libraries across the state makes great sense. Like many other communities, Shrewsbury residents make good use of their libraries; 70 percent of residents have active library cards, so it’s the perfect place to get the message out.”

The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), a key player in the Massachusetts Asian Longhorned Beetle Cooperative Eradication program, continues to notify property owners of their rights and responsibilities, holding informational public meetings and alerting residents to the presence of infested trees on their property. DCR staff has also surveyed the regulated area, removed infested trees and planted new ones.

“DCR staff remain committed to the eradication of ALB through continued education, surveying, beetle trapping efforts, removal of infested trees and regulatory,” said DCR Commissioner Ed Lambert. “DCR’s beetle traps set up in the area have recently caught several beetles, which DCR will use to teach others how to spot the forest invasive pest.”

Transporting firewood can lead to the spread of invasive species from one area to another. DAR, in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and its message boards, has reminded the public that they should leave firewood at home when traveling.

“Even if you do not live near Worcester or near the New York or Connecticut state lines, there is reason to be concerned about these infestations because the unintentional spread of forest pests through the movement of firewood means that every community is at risk,” said Jennifer Forman-Orth, DAR’s plant pest survey coordinator. “These pests can be deadly to trees and they are a long-term threat to forests and parks as well as the maple sugar, lumber and other forest product industries.”

Summer is the time to be on the lookout for ALB, a time when adult beetles emerge from the trees and are active. ALB can destroy hardwood trees including maple, birch and willow. The beetles tunnel deep into a tree's branches and trunks, disrupting sap flow, weakening and eventually killing the tree. Once ALB attacks a tree, the only remedy is to cut the tree down and chip it into small pieces. This beetle is thought to have been introduced to the United States in New York in 1996 via wood packing material shipped from Asia.

Emerald ash borer attacks only ash trees, but unlike ALB, it can kill a tree fast, within just a few years, because it bores directly under the bark, where the tree’s conductive system is. While ash represents only a small portion of this state’s forests, there is much forested land in the western part of the state where ash is common, and it can often be found throughout the state planted as a street tree or in parks.

Residents are urged to take the time to learn the signs of ALB and EAB tree damage and be sure to report any sightings.

Below are tips on how to spot ALB and EAB infestation, as well as information on what do if infestation is expected.

ALB:

Look for round, smooth-edged, dime-sized holes left by adult beetles exiting a tree, sawdust-like material on the ground around the trunk or on tree limbs and oozing sap. If an exit hole can be easily reached, try fitting the eraser end of a pencil into the hole. If it goes in straight at least one inch deep, contact the Asian Longhorned Beetle hotline (866-702-9938) or visit www.mass.gov/agr/alb. The beetles leave exit holes spread out across a tree. A series of holes together in a line is often caused by woodpeckers or sapsuckers. Adult beetles are .75- to 1.5-inches long, shiny black with irregular white spots and with antennae one to two times their body length.

EAB:

Look for tiny, D-shaped exit holes in the bark of ash trees, die-back in the upper third of the tree canopy, and sprouting of branches just below this dead area. The Emerald ash borer is a tiny, emerald-green metallic beetle, so small that seven of them could fit on the head of a penny.

To report suspicious ALB or EAB tree damage or insect sightings, or to read about these pests, visit www.massnrc.org/pests. You can also call the toll-free Asian longhorned beetle hotline at (866) 702-9938 or the EAB hotline at 1-866-322-4512.

More information about the ALB eradication program: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom/hot_issues/alb/alb.shtml

More information about EAB: http://emeraldashborer.info

DAR's mission is to ensure the long-term viability of agriculture in Massachusetts. Through its four divisions - Agricultural Conservation & Technical Assistance, Agricultural Markets, Animal Health, and Crop and Pest Services - DAR strives to support, regulate and enhance the rich diversity of the Commonwealth's agricultural community to promote economically and environmentally sound food safety and animal health measures, and fulfill agriculture's role in energy conservation and production. For more information, visit DAR's website at www.mass.gov/agr, and/or follow at twitter.com/MDARcommish.

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