Skip to main content

rhonda santos

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.

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.

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.

Smokejumpers Help Ohio Fight Beetle Fire

Smokejumpers are a unique breed.  They are people who are willing to jump, really parachute, out of an aircraft to provide a quick attack on forest fires. While smokejumpers are highly trained, experienced firefighters, they are also expert tree climbers. These firefighters usually work in rugged terrain, but travel all over the country to fight fires. Recently they traveled to Tate Township, Ohio to fight a fire of a different kind.

In April, the U.S. Forest Service sent smokejumpers to help the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) combat the Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) by climbing trees in Tate Township, Ohio, about 40 minutes outside of Cincinnati. The beetle is destroying trees in this area and the goal is to find infested tree quickly before the insect starts to emerge in May as adult beetles from the inside infested trees.

Oh Maple Syrup, How I Love Thee. Let me Count the Ways.

Okay, yes it’s Maple Syrup Day, an unofficial holiday, but the day allows us to celebrate and recognize this often underrated commodity. So in honor of this lovely product, here are some interesting tidbits that you may not know.

I use maple syrup on many things; not just pancakes, waffles and French toast, but also in recipes like soups and casseroles, to sweeten granola or oatmeal, even coffee. I’ve used it on ice cream and even snow, on salads and in salad dressings. My own step-father is known to take a shot of maple syrup every now-and-then. It is delightful on its own. Maple syrup can also be used to make maple cream, maple sugar, and maple candy.

Baby, it’s cold outside. Time to stock up on firewood.

 It’s fall in North America.  It’s the time of year that marks the transition from summer into winter.  It’s when the night time comes earlier and the weather cools considerably.  It’s also the time of year when most of us start to turn on our heat or start to acquire firewood. 

There are a lot of us that use firewood as a heat source.  According to U.S. Census data 2.4 million homes across the country are heated by wood.  This number does not include homes that use firewood as secondary heating or those of us that use it when we’re camping or even just to sit around in the yard.  Whether or not you use wood to heat your home or build a campfire, firewood is used by millions of Americans. 

Did You Spot the Beetle?

…the Volkswagen beetle that is. You might have if you were in Ohio the last few weeks. 

As part of the efforts to raise awareness about the invasive Asian longhorned beetle (ALB), a non-native insect originating from Asia that is attacking and killing out native U.S. trees, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) wrapped a Volkswagen beetle to look like Asian longhorned beetle.  The moving advertisement was part of a campaign meant to help inform residents about the beetle infestation in Ohio.

Why Research is Vital for Eradicating the Asian Longhorned Beetle

In addition to the existing science-based eradication protocols for fighting an Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) infestation, such as surveying trees and removing infested ones, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) relies on on-going research to not only improve current protocols, but also to develop new ones.

APHIS’s Center for Plant Health Science and Technology continues research to develop attractant-baited traps designed to lure and capture adult insects. The attractants include plant odors and pheromones, which are naturally occurring chemicals created and used by insects to communicate with each other.  These attractants are used to lure beetles to traps that are hung on trees that the beetle will attack.  Traps can aid in early detection of insects in areas where survey staff may not be working. When the traps are checked by staff members and a beetle is found, nearby trees may be surveyed to determine if they are infested. This year, the traps will be placed in the spring and early summer in strategic locations in all three ALB-affected states: New York, Massachusetts, and Ohio.  APHIS is also working with the U.S. Forest Service and Penn State University on their research with similar ALB traps.

What does Maple Syrup Have in Common with an Invasive Insect?

Today is National Maple Syrup Day!  So, what does maple syrup have in common with an invasive insect?  Well, if the insect is the Asian longhorned beetle, then they both can come from maple trees.  Obviously, we want the maple syrup and not the invasive beetle.  But who cares?  And why should anyone care?  Well, I care and here’s why:

Not only do I work for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, an agency that is actively fighting known infestations of Asian longhorned beetle in three different states, but I also am a native of Vermont.

Speak Up: You Can Help Protect America's Hardwood Trees against the Asian Longhorned Beetle!

From the moment an Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) infests a tree, there is no cure. No amount of treatments will drive this deadly pest from the comfort of America’s heartwood, leaving thousands of trees dead and dying in the northeastern U.S.  However, as bleak as this may sound, there is a way to stop this beetle, but we need your help.  The American public could be one of the ALB’s greatest opponents, and in stopping the beetle you can help save trees.

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the U.S. Forest Service, the Nature Conservancy, and American Forests held a joint news conference at the National Press Club on July 29, 2013 to urge the public to report signs of the invasive pest that threatens recreational areas, forests, and suburban and urban shade trees.  These agencies have named August “Tree Check Month” in order to encourage the public to examine their trees for signs of ALB.