For Immediate Release - May 23, 2014

This Memorial Day, Keep An Eye Out For Invasive Forest Pests

BOSTON – Friday, May 23, 2014 – With Memorial Day Weekend and the summer camping season upon us, the Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) is encouraging everyone to purchase local firewood and check trees for signs of invasive forest pests. Tree-killing insects like the Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) and Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) are serious threats to forest ecosystems across Massachusetts.

“Early detection of ALB or EAB can make all the difference in preventing these forest pests from getting established in a new area,” said DAR Commissioner Greg Watson. “We’re asking everyone to take just 10 minutes this Memorial Day Weekend to check the trees in their neighborhood, local park or forest, and to report any suspicious tree damage.”

Since 2008, more than 30,000 trees have been lost to the ALB infestation in the greater Worcester area. ALB slowly kills trees by tunneling deep into the heartwood and destroying them from the inside out. If ALB became established throughout Massachusetts, it would have negative impacts on forest ecosystems, fall foliage tourism, the maple sugaring industry, and could render formerly tree-lined neighborhoods shadeless for years.

EAB is the newest wood-boring pest to be found in Massachusetts. It was first discovered in Berkshire County in August 2012 and was more recently found in Essex County in November 2013. Although EAB only attacks ash trees, it can kill a mature ash in just a few years and moves very quickly from one tree to the next.

“While EAB has proven difficult to eradicate, through early detection we can slow the spread of this pest and give communities time to prepare and protect valued ash trees,” said DAR state survey coordinator Jennifer Forman Orth. “One way to help is to join our citizen science project, Massachusetts Wasp Watchers. Using teams of volunteers, Wasp Watchers tracks a native non-stinging wasp that preys on EAB and other related beetles, and uses the wasp to detect new EAB infestations.”

To check for signs of ALB, look for three things:

  • Perfectly round exit holes, a bit smaller than a dime;
  • Half inch oval divots in the bark left by female beetles digging sites to lay eggs in; and 
  • Frass, a sawdust-like material found at the bases of trees or in the crooks of branches.

ALB infests many common hardwood trees, particularly maple, elm, willow, birch, horse chestnut, ash and cottonwood. It will not infest any softwoods like pine, fir or spruce, and does not attack other hardwoods like oak or cherry.

To check ash trees for EAB, look for these three signs:

  • A majority of dead branches in the upper third of the tree’s canopy;
  •  D-shaped holes left in the bark when the beetle bores its way out; and
  • “Blonding” - stripping off of the bark on the trunk and main branches, exposing a layer of blonde wood. Blonding is actually damage done by woodpeckers seeking the EAB larvae, which bore just under the bark.

To report suspicious tree damage or insect sightings, or to learn more about these pests, visit http://massnrc.org/pests.

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