Acorn Anomaly? – Updates
Premature acorn drop on oaks (Quercus spp.) was previously reported in the Landscape Message released on August 7th. While this can be caused by environmental stress, it is also possible that a tiny gall wasp, possibly Callirhytis operator, is responsible. Galls created by this insect have been referred to as acorn pip galls. Acorns on close examination will show a flattened, tooth-like or wedge-shaped gall between the acorn and its cap. The life cycle of this insect, like many gall-forming insects, is complex. A spring and fall generation has been reported, each causing different types of galls on oak. The fall form, which has now been reported in southeastern NH, CT, RI, and MA, attacks 1-year old acorns which, due to the chemistry of the gall, terminate and fall to the ground. Eventually, the gall, which becomes softened, falls from the acorn, leaving behind a hole. Acorns can be damaged to the extent that they are no longer viable. Like with most gall wasps, not much is known about this insect, and outbreak events are rare. At this time, activity from this insect has been observed in the Berkshire (8/14/19) and Hampshire (8/20/19) Counties of Massachusetts. What impact will this insect have on oak reproduction if the viability of acorns is compromised? We likely do not have to worry. Oaks flood the environment with their acorns, in massive numbers, from time to time (called “mast” years). This helps ensure survival, including guaranteeing a certain percentage of acorns will produce new trees despite insect activity and activity from the other abundant wildlife that enjoy acorn crops.
More information about this insect has been shared by Dr. Gale Ridge of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station: https://bit.ly/2TQtEJw
Monarch caterpillars (Danaus plexippus plexippus) are for many reasons a “hot topic” for those of us who are entomophiles, but are of particular interest at this time of year in Massachusetts as we may have the special chance to witness “generations 3 and 4” of the annual monarch life cycle. Some describe these generations as the “great” and “great-great grandchildren” of the monarchs who famously overwinter in parts of Mexico. Some generation 3 individuals are capable of migrating and generation 4 individuals migrate south in the fall and return northward in the spring. It takes multiple generations for this species to make its spectacular migration. A great explanation of this can be found here: https://monarchlab.org/biology-and-research/biology-and-natural-history/breeding-life-cycle/annual-life-cycle/
Recently we have received questions pertaining to “what can I do to help or encourage monarchs?” The University of Minnesota’s Monarch Lab states that the most important thing you can do for monarchs in the USA is to help create breeding habitat through the planting of milkweed. They advise visiting the following web page for more information: https://monarchjointventure.org/get-involved/create-habitat-for-monarchs
Woody ornamental (and other) insect and non-insect arthropod pests to consider, a selected few:
- 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. 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.
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 .
- Bagworm: Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis is an occasionally encountered, fascinating Lepidopteran pest. Bagworm caterpillars were collected from young London planetree plantings in Northampton, MA on 7/31/19 by the bucket-full and kindly dropped off at the UMass Plant Diagnostics Laboratory. Activity from this insect has also recently been reported, with photo evidence, from Somerset, MA and Bridgewater, MA. These caterpillars develop into moths as adults. Their behaviors, life history, and appearance are interesting. The larvae (caterpillars) form “bags” or cases over themselves as they feed using assorted bits of plant foliage and debris tied together with silk. As the caterpillars feed and grow in size, so does their “bag”. Young, early instar caterpillars may feed with their bag oriented skyward, skeletonizing host plant leaves. As these caterpillars grow in size, they may dangle downward from their host plant, and if feeding on a deciduous host, they can consume the leaves down to the leaf veins. Pupation can occur in southern New England in late September or into October and this occurs within the “bag”. Typically, this means that the caterpillars could encounter a killing frost and die before mating could occur. However, in warmer areas of Massachusetts or if we experience a prolonged, warm autumn, it is possible for this insect to overwinter and again become a problem the following season. If the larvae survive to pupation, adult male moths emerge and are winged, able to fly to their flightless female mates. The adult male is blackish in color with transparent wings. The female is worm-like; she lacks eyes, wings, functional legs, or mouthparts. The female never gets the chance to leave the bag she constructs as a larva. The male finds her, mates, and the female moth develops eggs inside her abdomen. These eggs (500-1000) overwinter inside the deceased female, inside her bag, and can hatch roughly around mid-June in southern New England. Like other insects with flightless females, the young larvae can disperse by ballooning (spinning a silken thread and catching the wind to blow them onto a new host). While arborvitae and junipers can be some of the most commonly known host plants for this insect, the bagworm has a broad host range including both deciduous and coniferous hosts numbering over 130 different species. Bagworm has been observed on spruce, Canaan fir, honeylocust, oak, European hornbeam, rose, and in this case, London planetree among many others. At this time, we are at the point where chemical management of bagworms may not be effective. This insect can be managed through physical removal, if they can be safely reached. Squeezing them within their bags or gathering them in a bucket full of soapy water (or to crush by some other means) can be effective ways to manage this insect on ornamental plants. Early instar bagworm caterpillars can be managed with Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki (Btk) but this is most effective on young bagworms that are no larger than ¾ inch in length. As bagworms grow in size, they may also have behavioral mechanisms for avoiding chemical management. At this point in the season, physical removal (if possible) may be the best option. This will also preserve any natural enemies that would be found attacking this insect, such as certain parasitic wasps. It is also important to note that the bags from dead bagworms will remain on the host plant, so check the viability of the bagworms by dissecting their bags to avoid unnecessary chemical applications. Historically in Massachusetts, bagworms have been mostly a problem coming in on infested nursery stock. With females laying 500-1000 eggs, if those eggs overwinter the population can grow quite large in a single season on an infested host. Typically, this insect becomes a problem on hedgerows or plantings nearby an infested host plant. Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis is found from Massachusetts to Florida, and is typically a more significant pest in southern climates.
- Deer Tick/Blacklegged Tick: Check out the archived FREE TickTalk with TickReport webinars available here:https://ag.umass.edu/landscape/education-events/webinars . The next live webinar will be held on October 9, 2019 with Dr. Stephen Rich of the UMass Laboratory of Medical Zoology. Previous webinars including information about deer ticks and associated diseases, American dog ticks and lone star ticks and associated diseases, ticks and personal protection, and updates from the Laboratory of Medical Zoology are archived at the link above.
Deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) nymphs (immatures) are active at this time, and may be encountered through August. For images of all deer tick life stages, along with an outline of the diseases they carry, visit: http://www.tickencounter.org/tick_identification/deer_tick .
Anyone working in the yard and garden should be aware that there is the potential to encounter deer ticks. The deer tick or blacklegged tick can transmit Lyme disease, human babesiosis, human anaplasmosis, and other diseases. Preventative activities, such as daily tick checks, wearing appropriate clothing, and permethrin treatments for clothing (according to label instructions) can aid in reducing the risk that a tick will become attached to your body. If a tick cannot attach and feed, it will not transmit disease. For more information about personal protective measures, visit: http://www.tickencounter.org/prevention/protect_yourself . For a quick overview of skin repellents available to protect yourself from ticks, visit “Tickology: Skin Repellents” by Larry Dapsis of Cape Cod Cooperative Extension:https://bit.ly/2J8IJBl .
Have you just removed an attached tick from yourself or a loved one with a pair of tweezers? If so, consider sending the tick to the UMass Laboratory of Medical Zoology to be tested for disease causing pathogens. To submit a tick to be tested, visit: https://www.tickreport.com/ and click on the blue “Order a TickReport” button. Results are typically available within 3 business days, or less. By the time you make an appointment with your physician following the tick attachment, you may have the results back from TickReport to bring to your physician to aid in a conversation about risk.
The UMass Laboratory of Medical Zoology does not give medical advice, nor are the results of their tests diagnostic of human disease. Transmission of a pathogen from the tick to you is dependent upon how long the tick had been feeding, and each pathogen has its own transmission time. TickReport is an excellent measure of exposure risk for the tick (or ticks) that you send in to be tested. Feel free to print out and share your TickReport with your healthcare provider.
- Emerald Ash Borer: (Agrilus planipennis, EAB) The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation has recently confirmed emerald ash borer in Plymouth County, MA for the first time, along with additional communities in counties where this insect has previously been confirmed in the state. The detection in Plymouth County was made with a green funnel trap, where two adult beetles were caught in West Bridgewater, MA. A map of these locations and others previously confirmed across the state may be found here: https://ag.umass.edu/fact-sheets/emerald-ash-borer .
This wood-boring beetle readily attacks ash (Fraxinus spp.) including white, green, and black ash and has also been found developing in white fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus) and has been reported in cultivated olive (Olea europaea). Signs of an EAB infested tree may include D-shaped exit holes in the bark (from adult emergence), “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 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 report here: http://massnrc.org/pests/pestreports.htm .
- Eriophyid Mites: the family Eriophyidae (gall mites): Noticeable galls on Rhus aromatica (fragrant sumac) have been reported in Middlesex County and observed in Amherst, MA on this particular host. The species suspected is Aculops rhois. A. rhois is known as the poison ivy leaf gall mite, and has been recorded on Toxicodendron and Rhus and previously reported on R. aromatica. This particular eriophyid mite causes galling on leaves that is usually referred to as "bladder" galls. These mites impact early spring foliage and as they develop they leave their galls and initiate more on newly opening leaves. Mite activity decreases as the growing season progresses, yet the galls remain. Not much is known about the life cycle of this particular gall mite.
No management is generally necessary for eriophyid mites causing bladder galls on leaves. These insect relatives typically cause damage that is at most only aesthetically displeasing, and not particularly damaging to overall plant health. That said, there are some mites in this genus that have been reported to cause economically significant damage in the literature. However, others, such as the Aculops spp. found on maple, are rarely detrimental to the overall health of their hosts.
- Fall Home-Invading Insects: Various insects, such as ladybugs, boxelder bugs, seedbugs, and stink bugs will begin to seek overwintering shelters in warm places, such as homes, throughout the next couple of months. While such invaders do not cause any measurable structural damage, they can become a nuisance especially when they are present in large numbers. While the invasion has not yet begun, if you are not willing to share your home with such insects, now should be the time to repair torn window screens, repair gaps around windows and doors, and sure up any other gaps through which they might enter the home.
- Fall Webworm: Hyphantria cunea is native to North America and Mexico. It is now considered a world-wide pest, as it has spread throughout much of Europe and Asia. (For example, it was introduced accidentally into Hungary from North America in the 1940’s.) Hosts include nearly all shade, fruit, and ornamental trees except conifers. In the USA, at least 88 species of trees are hosts for these insects, while in Europe at least 230 species are impacted. In the past history of this pest, it was once thought that the fall webworm was a two-species complex. It is now thought that H. cunea has two color morphs – one black headed and one red headed. These two color forms differ not only in the coloration of the caterpillars and the adults, but also in their behaviors. Caterpillars may go through at least 11 molts, each stage occurring within a silken web they produce over the host. When alarmed, all caterpillars in the group will move in unison in jerking motions that may be a mechanism for self-defense. Depending upon the location and climate, 1-4 generations of fall webworm can occur per year. Fall webworm adult moths lay eggs on the underside of the leaves of host plants in the spring. These eggs hatch in late June or early July depending on climate. Young larvae feed together in groups on the undersides of leaves, first skeletonizing the leaf and then enveloping other leaves and eventually entire branches within their webs. Webs are typically found on the terminal ends of branches. All caterpillar activity occurs within this tent, which becomes filled with leaf fragments, cast skins, and frass. Fully grown larvae then wander from the webs and pupate in protected areas such as the leaf litter where they will remain for the winter. Adult fall webworm moths emerge the following spring/early summer to start the cycle over again. 50+ species of parasites and 36+ species of predators are known to attack fall webworm in North America. Fall webworms typically do not cause extensive damage to their hosts, but on occasion, this can occur. Nests may be an aesthetic issue for some. If in reach, small fall webworm webs may be pruned out of trees and shrubs and destroyed. Do not set fire to H. cunea webs when they are still attached to the host plant.
- Hickory Tussock Moth: Lophocampa caryae is native to southern Canada and the northeastern United States. There is one generation per year. Overwintering occurs as a pupa inside a fuzzy, oval shaped cocoon. Adult moths emerge approximately in May and their presence can continue into July. Females will lay clusters of 100+ eggs together on the underside of leaves. Females of this species can fly, however they have been called weak fliers due to their large size. When first hatched from their eggs, the young caterpillars will feed gregariously in a group, eventually dispersing and heading out on their own to forage. Caterpillar maturity can take up to three months and color changes occur during this time. These caterpillars are essentially white with some black markings and a black head capsule. They are very hairy, and should not be handled with bare hands as many can have skin irritation or rashes (dermatitis) as a result of interacting with hickory tussock moth hairs. By late September, the caterpillars will create their oval, fuzzy cocoons hidden in the leaf litter where they will again overwinter. Hosts whose leaves are fed upon by these caterpillars include but are not limited to hickory, walnut, butternut, linden, apple, basswood, birch, elm, black locust, and aspen. Maple and oak have also been reportedly fed upon by this insect. Several wasp species are parasitoids of hickory tussock moth caterpillars.
- Spotted Lanternfly: (Lycorma delicatula, SLF) is not known to occur in Massachusetts landscapes (no established populations are known in MA at this time). However, officials with the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) urged residents to check plants for spotted lanternfly. On February 21, 2019 MDAR announced the discovery of a single dead spotted lanternfly adult at a private residence in Boston. As a result of this discovery, officials asked the public to check potted plants they purchase and report any suspicious insects. MDAR reports that this particular individual appeared to have been unintentionally transported this past December in a shipment of poinsettia plants originating from Pennsylvania. Officials also report that there is currently no evidence that this pest has become established in MA. For more information about this finding, please visit the MA Department of Agricultural Resources press release:https://www.mass.gov/news/state-agricultural-officials-urge-residents-to-check-plants-for-spotted-lanternfly .
This insect is a member of the Order Hemiptera (true bugs, cicadas, hoppers, aphids, and others) and the Family Fulgoridae, also known as planthoppers. The spotted lanternfly is a non-native species first detected in the United States in Berks County, Pennsylvania and confirmed on September 22, 2014.
The spotted lanternfly is considered native to China, India, and Vietnam. It has been introduced as a non-native insect to South Korea and Japan, prior to its detection in the United States. In South Korea, it is considered invasive and a pest of grapes and peaches. The spotted lanternfly has been reported from over 70 species of plants, including the following: tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) (preferred host), apple (Malus spp.), plum, cherry, peach, apricot (Prunus spp.), grape (Vitis spp.), pine (Pinus spp.), pignut hickory (Carya glabra), Sassafras (Sassafras albidum), serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.), slippery elm (Ulmus rubra), tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), white ash (Fraxinus americana), willow (Salix spp.), American beech (Fagus grandifolia), American linden (Tilia americana), American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), big-toothed aspen (Populus grandidentata), black birch (Betula lenta), black cherry (Prunus serotina), black gum (Nyssa sylvatica), black walnut (Juglans nigra), dogwood (Cornus spp.), Japanese snowbell (Styrax japonicus), maple (Acer spp.), oak (Quercus spp.), and paper birch (Betula papyrifera).
The adults and immatures of this species damage host plants by feeding on sap from stems, leaves, and the trunks of trees. In the springtime in Pennsylvania (late April - mid-May) nymphs (immatures) are found on smaller plants and vines and new growth of trees and shrubs. Third and fourth instar nymphs migrate to the tree of heaven and are observed feeding on trunks and branches. Trees may be found with sap weeping from the wounds caused by the insect’s feeding. The sugary secretions (excrement) created by this insect may coat the host plant, later leading to the growth of sooty mold. Insects such as wasps, hornets, bees, and ants may also be attracted to the sugary waste created by the lanternflies, or sap weeping from open wounds in the host plant. Host plants have been described as giving off a fermented odor when this insect is present.
Adults are present by the middle of July in Pennsylvania and begin laying eggs by late September and continue laying eggs through late November and even early December in that state. Adults may be found on the trunks of trees such as the tree of heaven or other host plants growing in close proximity to them. Egg masses of this insect are gray in color and, in some ways, look similar to gypsy moth egg masses.
Host plants, bricks, stone, lawn furniture, recreational vehicles, and other smooth surfaces can be inspected for egg masses. Egg masses laid on outdoor residential items such as those listed above may pose the greatest threat for spreading this insect via human aided movement.
For more information about the spotted lanternfly, visit this fact sheet: https://ag.umass.edu/landscape/fact-sheets/spotted-lanternfly .
- Tuliptree Aphid: Illinoia liriodendri is a species of aphid associated with the tuliptree, wherever it is grown. The tuliptree aphid was seen feeding on the undersides of leaves on 7/25/19 and again on 8/21/19 in Amherst, MA. Depending upon local temperatures, these aphids may be present from mid-June through early fall. Large populations can develop by late summer. Some leaves, especially those in the outer canopy, may turn brown or yellow and drop from infested trees prematurely. The most significant impact these aphids can have is typically the resulting honeydew, or sugary excrement, which may be present in excessive amounts and coat leaves and branches, leading to sooty mold growth. This honeydew may also make a mess of anything beneath the tree. Wingless adults are approximately 1/8 inch in length, oval, and can range in color from pale green to yellow. There are several generations per year. This is a native insect. Management is typically not necessary, as this insect does not significantly impact the overall health of its host. Tuliptree aphids also have plenty of natural enemies, such as ladybeetles and parasites.
- Viburnum Leaf Beetle: Pyrrhalta viburni is a beetle in the family Chrysomelidae that is native to Europe, but was found in Massachusetts in 2004. In Amherst, MA on 7/9/19 and again on 7/24/19, adult Viburnum leaf beetles were found mating, feeding, and laying eggs at this location. Females will lay their eggs in pits they chew at the ends of twigs. Eggs overwinter. Adults may also migrate to previously not yet infested plants. Feeding damage from adult Viburnum leaf beetle was observed on 8/15/2019 in Goshen, MA on native Viburnum in a natural setting. This beetle feeds exclusively on many different species of Viburnum, which includes, but is not limited to, susceptible plants such as V. dentatum, V. nudum, V. opulus, V. propinquum, and V. rafinesquianum. Some Viburnum have been observed to have varying levels of resistance to this insect, including but not limited to V. bodnantense, V. carlesii, V. davidii, V. plicatum, V. rhytidophyllum, V. setigerum, and V. sieboldii. More information about Viburnum leaf beetle may be found at http://www.hort.cornell.edu/vlb/ .
- Yellowjackets: (Vespula spp.and Dolichovespula spp.) Often times, when we think that we have been “stung by a bee” the true culprit is some type of yellowjacket. Yellowjackets frequently interact with humans at the end of the summer due to a shift in their foraging behaviors. Early in the season, they can act as beneficial insects as they are predators of many pest insects such as caterpillars. These protein resources can be useful to them when rearing their young. Later in the season, they may switch to foods high in carbohydrates or sugars, including nectar and honeydew, but also some of our favorite items to pack during outdoor picnics or cookouts (soda and other sugary treats).
Unlike European honeybees (Apis mellifera), yellowjackets are capable of stinging multiple times (multiple stings from a single individual). This includes aerial yellowjackets such as the baldfaced hornet and other species in the genus Dolichovespula spp. European honeybees (the workers) can only sting once due to the fact that they have a barbed stinger/ovipositor. This causes the ovipositor to become stuck in the skin, tearing this structure free from the abdomen of the honeybee, thus killing the honeybee. Honeybees are often not aggressive and only attack when otherwise threatened. This may not be the case for yellowjackets.
Be on the lookout for their nests and avoid. Baldfaced hornets and other aerial yellowjackets make aerial nests that are nearly completely covered with a papery shell (except for an opening for entrance/exit of the nest). These can be found in trees and shrubs located up off the ground. Some yellowjackets will also create subterranean nests or nest in cavities of trees, decayed stumps, or associated with buildings. If nests are in areas where these insects are unlikely to interact with humans, they can be left alone. These nests are not used again the following season, and by the first couple of hard frosts, all individuals will be gone. However, if they are close to homes/doorways, walkways, benches, etc. (high traffic areas) management may be necessary, especially if the homeowner/individuals using the property are allergic to stings. The baldfaced hornet nest in these photos was found attached to the entrance of French Hall on the University of Massachusetts campus in Amherst, MA as seen on 8/20/19. (This particular nest has since been removed in preparation for the return of students in this high traffic area.)
Attempts to remove yellowjacket or baldfaced hornet nests should be made at night, or at least very early or very late in the day when temperatures are still cool, activity by the yellowjackets is likely to be low, and the individuals are likely to still be contained (largely) within the nest. Note that although the insects may not be terribly active, any disturbance to the nest/colony will change that. Wear protective clothing (long sleeves and pants tight around wrists and ankles and close-toed shoes or boots, at minimum). Many insecticides are labelled for use against yellowjackets and baldfaced hornets, including products that can be shot into the opening of the nest from many feet away. Note that agitated yellowjackets may leave the nest, looking for the source of aggravation (you), and will be ready to sting. Use extreme caution, and individuals who are allergic to stings should not attempt this. Hire a professional. Again, if the nest is in a location where interaction with people is unlikely, consider leaving it alone until a few hard frosts have hit, at which time the nest can be removed if desired.
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 (https://www.tickreport.com/ ) and click on the blue Order a TickReport button for more information.
Reported by Tawny Simisky, Extension Entomologist, UMass Extension Landscape, Nursery, & Urban Forestry Program