Skip to main content

Animals

Vermont Says 'Thank You' to Massachusetts for Fighting Invasive Beetle

The Vermont maple syrup industry is well aware that an invasive, tree-killing insect could threaten the production of its delicious, all-natural commodity.  So on December 13, just four days before National Maple Syrup Day on December 17, the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association and Vermont state officials hosted a special pancake and maple syrup breakfast to thank partners for supporting the Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) eradication program in Massachusetts.

Why would people in Vermont make breakfast for their neighbors in Massachusetts?  Vermont’s Forest Health Program Manager Barbara Schultz told the group the Asian longhorned beetle poses a significant threat to our northeastern forests and the insect could spread throughout the region and devastate maple sugaring in Vermont if it’s not eradicated in Massachusetts.

European Grapevine Moth Cooperative Eradication Program: A Model for Fighting Future Invasive Species Threats

I was thrilled to celebrate with key partners and contributors in Napa County, California, recently at an event to recognize the critical safeguarding accomplishment we achieved together, that of eradicating the invasive European grapevine moth (EGVM) from the United States.

Leaders from the USDA, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), and the California County Agricultural Commissioners came together with growers and industry representatives, who found and implemented the right tools to safeguard California grapes. In front of these critical partners, I was proud to recognize the extraordinary individual and group contributions that made the eradication of EGVM possible.

As the Weather Cools, Your Firewood Choices Matter

This October, the Nature Conservancy’s Don’t Move Firewood campaign and Hungry Pests, an initiative from APHIS, are partnering to present the first-ever Firewood Awareness Month. The cooler nights and quickly approaching fall season brings an increase in RV camping, hunting, and home heating. Firewood Awareness Month looks to raise public awareness about the potential danger of firewood movement as a pest and disease pathway at this high-risk time of year.

Tree-killing invasive insects and diseases can lurk both inside, and on the surface, of firewood. While these insects and diseases don’t travel far on their own, transporting firewood allows them to move hundreds of miles and start infestations in new places, explains APHIS Deputy Administrator Osama El-Lissy.

Prepare Livestock and Animals Ahead of Severe Weather

It’s important to have a plan in place ahead of severe weather to protect your animals and livestock.  Pets, farm animals and livestock rely on their humans to protect them and keep them safe in all types of emergencies.  The steps we take or don’t take will directly impact their well-being.  Because September is National Preparedness Month, it is a good time to think about emergency planning.  Don’t Wait. Communicate. Make an Emergency Communication Plan for you, your family and your animals as you just don’t know when a disaster will strike your community.

According to Dr. T.J. Myers, Assistant Deputy Administrator for the USDA APHIS Surveillance, Preparedness and Response Services, “Having a plan in place to protect animals and livestock is the best defense against severe weather.  Re-evaluating that plan periodically can make a huge difference and save valuable time during an emergency.”

Are You and Your Pets Ready in an Emergency?

We are reminded often throughout the year of the devastating impacts that families and their communities experience when natural disasters such as, floods, mudslides, tornadoes, wildfires, earthquakes and hurricanes strike.  Because September is National Preparedness Month, it is a good time to think about emergency planning.  Don’t Wait. Communicate. Make an Emergency Communication Plan.

There is a lot of information out there on what to do in the event of a natural disaster, and how to prepare in advance for an emergency – what to bring, what to have in your vehicle and so on.

Now is a Good Time to Look for and Report Signs of Asian Longhorned Beetle Damage on Trees

To some people the smell of summer is a fresh cut grass or morning dew, but to me summer is the scent of healthy trees in full bloom.  It reminds me that summer isn’t over yet and there is still time to be outdoors.  And with August as Tree Check Month for the invasive Asian longhorned beetle (ALB), it’s a good time to take a look at your trees to make sure they are beetle free.

Last month, a homeowner on Long Island, N.Y., outside in her own yard, captured an adult beetle.  She visited the website then called the ALB hotline telephone number 1-866-702-9938 to report the beetle.  New York State’s Department of Agriculture and Marketing together with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service responded and collected the beetle, which was ALB.  Six infested trees were found on the property.

Celebrate 50 Years of Protecting Animals with APHIS

Many people know that the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is the agency tasked with administering the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).  But did you know that this is the 50th anniversary of that Act?

In 1965, a Dalmatian named Pepper was stolen from her backyard by a dealer, who then sold her to a hospital.  Pepper was used in research and subsequently died.  The public outcry was, understandably, enormous, including coverage in several major magazines.  As a result, Congress passed the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act – the precursor to the AWA – in 1966, and tasked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure the health and wellness of animals used in research.

Saving Florida's Citrus Industry Through Collaboration and Innovation

The Florida citrus industry is under siege and the invader is a tiny bug called the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP).  The ACP spreads a disease known as Huanglongbing (HLB) or citrus greening, and together they are destroying groves that have been cultivated by families for generations.

But all is not lost.  USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is working closely with State and Federal partners such as the Agricultural Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture, as well as State departments of agriculture and the citrus industry in Florida, California, Arizona and Texas to develop short-term solutions to help protect groves while researchers focus on longer-term projects that may one day put an end to this devastating pest and disease combo.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is Real, and It's More Than Just a Nuisance

While being outside in Massachusetts this June, I first noticed it.  A lot of leaves were falling from the trees, only these were chewed leaf parts, not whole leaves.

Similar to the children's book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar written by Eric Carle, some leaves didn’t just have chew marks but actual holes going straight through them.  Unlike the children’s book, this damage isn’t being caused by a friendly caterpillar who turns into a butterfly.  Instead it’s the result of ravenous gypsy moth caterpillars feeding…and feeding.  It’s so bad that in some areas, on walkways and roadways, it looks like fall.  Brown, dried up leaves are a contrast to summer’s lush greenery.

Biocontrol Staff Are Modern-Day MacGyvers in the Fight Against Invasive Beetle

Emerald ash borer (EAB) beetle is an invasive wood boring beetle, first detected in July 2002 in southeastern Michigan. The pest attacks and kills ash trees and it is responsible for the death and decline of tens of millions of ash in 25 states. EAB lives under the bark and when people move EAB-infested firewood they unknowingly move the pest. During EAB Awareness Week (May 22-28) leave HungryPests behind and don’t move firewood.

Do you remember the eighties television show MacGyver? Science genius turns secret agent. Each week Angus MacGyver—armed with only a pen, aerosol spray can and a Swiss Army knife—successfully disarms the bomb and saves the day! The following week, it’s a shoe horn, jumper cables and a screwdriver…then a thermos, belt buckle….you get the drift. Sixty minutes of ingenious, nail-biting problem-solving.

Although the show’s final episode aired almost 25 years ago, the spirit of Angus lives on at the USDA’s Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) biological control production facility, where USDA is strategically rearing natural enemies to combat this destructive pest.  Mass rearing biocontrol agents (stingless wasps) is a delicate process that’s time-sensitive, labor-intensive, and laden with problem-solving opportunities.