Woody ornamental insect and non-insect arthropod pests to consider, a selected few:
- Winter Moth: Operophtera brumata. The eggs of this insect, laid by the females who emerged in November of 2016 and were active through the winter months (mainly November through December when temperatures are above freezing) are currently present in the landscape and hidden in cracks and crevices of bark or beneath lichen on host plants such as oak, maple, apple, blueberry, crabapple, etc. Eggs are tiny and green when first laid, but quickly turn a red-orange color soon after. At this time, anyone monitoring winter moth eggs will most likely see that they are orange in color. As the egg develops, it will turn a bright blue color, shortly prior to egg hatch. For more information about the life cycle and management of winter moth, please visit this newly updated (March, 2017) fact sheet: Winter Moth Identification and Management (https://ag.umass.edu/landscape/fact-sheets/winter-moth-identification-management).
According to reports, winter moth eggs in Rhode Island (Heather Faubert, University of Rhode Island) and eastern Massachusetts (Dr. Joseph Elkinton, University of Massachusetts) are still orange at this time. As of 3/16/2017, egg color change indicating winter moth egg hatch and caterpillar arrival has not yet been observed. While some areas in eastern Massachusetts, where winter moth is problematic, may have accumulated enough growing degree days to indicate the possibility of winter moth egg hatch, using that method to predict this particular insect’s development is complicated. As one could imagine, although we recently experienced record-breaking, above average temperatures, were winter moth eggs to hatch at this time, they would not arrive in the most favorable of conditions thanks to our recent snowfall. For more information about using growing degree days to predict insect development, please visit: https://ag.umass.edu/landscape/fact-sheets/growing-degree-days-for-management-of-insect-pests-in-landscape.
Continued monitoring of winter moth egg development is needed at this time, especially for blueberry and apple growers looking to manage winter moth caterpillars early before damage to the buds can occur. For individuals managing winter moth in ornamental plants, depending on the active ingredient being used, waiting until host plant leaves open completely may be important for management, particularly if Bacillus thuringiensis Kurstaki (Btk) is the active ingredient of choice. Btk must be ingested by actively feeding, young caterpillars to be effective. Applying Btk to closed buds for winter moth management will not have the desired effect. The Elkinton Lab has reported that the number of pupating winter moth in 2016 (at their study sites) was much lower than what has been observed in previous years. Reports from Hanson, MA (see Southeast Region report) indicate fewer winter moth eggs are present on monitored trees than in previous years. Hopefully this will translate into fewer caterpillars at least for some areas in Massachusetts this year, however one should not expect them (or the damage they cause) to completely disappear in 2017.
Winter moth is a non-native insect that was identified in Massachusetts for the first time in 2003 following persistent reports of defoliation in eastern areas of the state such as Cape Anne and on the North Shore near Cohasset, Hingham, and Rockland on the South Shore in the late 1990’s. For more detailed information about the history of this insect pest in North America and Massachusetts, please visit the newly updated (March, 2017) fact sheet: Winter Moth in Massachusetts: History and Biological Control (https://ag.umass.edu/landscape/fact-sheets/winter-moth-in-massachusetts-history-biological-control).
This fact sheet also includes updates regarding the progress of the work of Dr. Joseph Elkinton’s laboratory group at the University of Massachusetts and their efforts towards the biological control of winter moth using Cyzenis albicans, a tachinid fly. The fly parasitizes the caterpillars of winter moth specifically. In other areas, such as Nova Scotia where winter moth was also problematic, this fly used for biological control has been successful in reducing winter moth to a non-pest. C. albicans has been released across 41 sites in Massachusetts and has been established in at least 17 of those sites as evidenced through the recovery of flies in winter moth in subsequent years. In one site in Wellesley, these flies have been observed to be spreading from the initial release location and their populations have increased alongside an observed decrease in the winter moth population there. For more information, please visit the above mentioned fact sheet.
- Gypsy Moth: Lymantria dispar egg masses laid by female moths in 2016 can be seen at this time. This is the stage of the insect that overwinters. Egg masses are “fuzzy” or hairy and brownish-tan in color. Each egg mass can hold up to 500-1000 eggs. These masses may be found on host plant trunks and branches such as oak (favored), maple, birch, poplar, and many others, but are also laid on inanimate objects including the surfaces of homes, outdoor furniture, camping equipment, firewood piles, etc. This may make the accidental movement of gypsy moth egg masses possible.
Egg hatch for this insect is also not yet upon us, and occurs after winter moth egg hatch. (Note: winter moth and gypsy moth share some common host plants. Therefore, where populations of these two insects overlap in Massachusetts, the same tree may be defoliated by winter moth and then again by gypsy moth following in the same season.) Gypsy moth egg hatch typically occurs between 90-100 growing degree days, using a base of 50°F, average temperatures, and a March 1st start date. This is usually around the first week in May in Massachusetts, but variations in temperature may lead to early egg hatch in the last week in April. This can also coincide with serviceberry (Amelanchier) bloom. After egg hatch occurs, groups of tiny gypsy moth caterpillars may remain on their egg mass just before crawling to the canopy of their host plant, where they can disperse using a technique known as “ballooning”. Ballooning occurs when very young caterpillars spin a silken thread and catch the wind to blow onto a new host plant once the thread breaks. This method of dispersal can lead to host plants becoming defoliated that previously did not have egg masses directly on them, however egg masses may be present on nearby oaks, for example, and provide a local population of caterpillars.
Patchy areas across mostly central and eastern Massachusetts experienced elevated populations of gypsy moth and significant amounts of defoliation in 2016 (see the Insects section of the archived 2016 Landscape Messages between April 29 and July 29). The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation aerially mapped approximately 350,000 acres of defoliation across Massachusetts last year, attributed to gypsy moth. State officials warn the public about another year of defoliation from gypsy moth as predicted for 2017: http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/pr-2017/another-year-of-defoliation-from-gypsy-moth-in-2017.html. That web page also links to a map of the 2016 defoliation from gypsy moth, which may provide a reference regarding areas that may be impacted by this insect again in 2017. To prepare for this insect, now (before the last week in April) is a great time to scout the landscape and count the number of gypsy moth egg masses present not only on valuable landscape specimens that are hosts for this insect, but on nearby forested hosts such as oak which might provide sources of ballooning caterpillars. Egg mass counts can help us make decisions regarding whether or not to manage for this insect. Some individuals also use this opportunity to scrape egg masses into a container of soapy water, although this is time consuming and some egg masses will be missed.
We can hope for elevated rainfall in the months of May and June, which helps facilitate the successful infection of younger gypsy moth caterpillars with the insect-killing fungus Entomophaga maimaiga. This fungus is currently overwintering in the soil litter in tough, protected asexual resting spores, which can survive in this state for years. Having lacked much precipitation most recently during the springs of 2015 and 2016, it is thought that our current expanding populations of gypsy moth are at least in part a result of a lack of infection in the caterpillar population by this fungus. Hopefully Massachusetts will see more normal rainfall amounts this season. Only time will tell.
We can also hope areas in Massachusetts that do not have large numbers of gypsy moth egg masses present at this time and did not experience much gypsy moth defoliation last year (areas such as most of Berkshire County) will be mostly spared in 2017 in comparison to those areas who suffered last year in central and eastern Massachusetts. At this time, monitoring susceptible hosts for gypsy moth egg masses and educating and reminding ourselves about this invasive insect that has a long history in the state is the best way to plan for management this season. For more information about gypsy moth, please visit: http://ag.umass.edu/landscape/fact-sheets/gypsy-moth and return to the Landscape Message for timely updates about this pest and others throughout the season.
- Asian Longhorned Beetle, Anoplophora glabripennis, ALB: Look for signs of an ALB infestation which include perfectly round exit holes (about the size of a dime), shallow oval or round scars in the bark where a female has chewed an egg site, or sawdust-like frass (excrement) on the ground nearby host trees or caught in between branches. These particular signs of damage from the beetle may be more visible at this time of year, when host trees such as maples are leafless. Be advised that other, native insects may create perfectly round exit holes or sawdust-like frass which can be confused with signs of ALB activity.
The regulated area for Asian longhorned beetle is 110 miles2 encompassing Worcester, Shrewsbury, Boylston, West Boylston, and parts of Holden and Auburn. If you believe you have seen damage caused by this insect, such as exit holes or egg sites, on susceptible host trees like maple, please call the Asian Longhorned Beetle Eradication Program office in Worcester, MA at 508-852-8090 or toll free at 1-866-702-9938. Adult insects of this species will not be present at this time of year.
To report an Asian longhorned beetle find online or compare it to common insect look-alikes, visit: http://massnrc.org/pests/albreport.aspx or https://www.aphis.usda.gov/pests-diseases/alb/report.
- Emerald Ash Borer (EAB): Agrilus planipennis readily attacks ash (Fraxinus spp.) including white, green, and black ash and has also been found developing in white fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus). Adult insects of this species will not be present at this time of year. Signs of an EAB infested tree may include (at this time) D-shaped exit holes in the bark (from adult emergence in previous years), “blonding” or lighter coloration of the ash bark from woodpecker feeding (chipping away of the bark as they search for larvae beneath), and serpentine galleries visible through splits in the bark, from larval feeding beneath. Positive identification of an EAB-infested tree may not be possible with these signs individually on their own.
For a map of the known locations of emerald ash borer in the state, as well as further information about this insect, please visit: https://ag.umass.edu/fact-sheets/emerald-ash-borer. If you believe you have located EAB-infested ash trees, particularly in an area of Massachusetts not identified on the map provided, please follow the instructions below.
Concerned that you may have found an invasive insect or suspicious damage caused by one? Need to report a pest sighting? If so, please visit the Massachusetts Introduced Pests Outreach Project: http://massnrc.org/pests/pestreports.htm.
A note about Tick Awareness: deer ticks (Ixodes scapularis), the American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis), and the lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum) are all found throughout Massachusetts. Each can carry their own complement of diseases. Anyone working in tick habitats (wood-line areas, forested areas, and landscaped areas with ground cover) should check themselves regularly for ticks while practicing preventative measures. Have a tick and need it tested? Visit the web page of the UMass Laboratory of Medical Zoology (www.tickdiseases.org) and click on the red Test a Tick button for more information.
Report by Tawny Simisky, Extension Entomologist, UMass Extension Landscape, Nursery, & Urban Forestry Program