Woody ornamental insect and non-insect arthropod pests to consider, a selected few:
- Winter Moth: (Operophtera brumata) The winter moth population is at a record low! The 2018 outlook concerning winter moth caterpillar population numbers in Massachusetts is very positive for those of you in the eastern areas of the state accustomed to dealing with damaging populations of this insect. Dr. Joseph Elkinton, Professor of Environmental Conservation at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, has excellent news: data from his lab’s research locations in eastern Massachusetts suggest that this invasive pest’s population size is at an all-time low. In fact, the 2017 winter moth population was the lowest they have seen since studying and working toward the biological control of this insect for the past 13 years. The populations of winter moth are so low in Massachusetts at this time, that Dr. Elkinton’s lab and scouts for UMass Extension’s Landscape Message are having a very difficult (to impossible) time locating winter moth eggs to monitor egg color change, development, and hatch for the 2018 season. Heather Faubert, with the University of Rhode Island, reports far fewer winter moth eggs present at the locations she typically monitors. To date (as of 3/21/18) she has not reported winter moth egg color change or hatch at her locations in Rhode Island, Connecticut, or the two sites she has in Massachusetts.
The eggs of this insect, if they can be found, were laid by the females who emerged in November of 2017 and were active through the winter months (mainly November through December when temperatures are above freezing). Eggs 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 thisfact sheet: Winter Moth Identification and Management (https://ag.umass.edu/landscape/fact-sheets/winter-moth-identification-management).
Management of winter moth in 2018 may only be necessary for high-value agricultural crops (such as blueberry) or where managers are actively monitoring winter moth eggs and have observed numbers of eggs consistent with previous years when damage occurred. It is expected, however, that in most locations in eastern Massachusetts, a reprieve from damaging winter moth caterpillar populations will occur in 2018.
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 this 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 43 sites in Massachusetts and has been established in at least 32 of those locations as evidenced through the recovery of flies in winter moth in subsequent years. The Elkinton Lab now has data showing that at six of these locations, the fly populations have increased alongside an observed decrease in the winter moth population there. For more information about the progress of winter moth biological control in Massachusetts, visit the following article in Hort Notes found under “Trouble Maker of the Month”, here: https://ag.umass.edu/landscape/newsletters/hort-notes/hort-notes-2018-vol-292.
- Gypsy Moth:(Lymantria dispar) The outlook for the 2018 season in regard to gypsy moth is significantly better than it would have been if Entomophaga maimaiga didn’t outbreak in the gypsy moth caterpillar population in late June of 2017. At that time, many dead caterpillars were seen hanging from tree trunks and branches, killed by the fungus, which was aided by the wet spring weather earlier in the year. Need a reminder of what that looked like? Go to: https://ag.umass.edu/landscape/news/gypsy-moth-caterpillars-dying-across-massachusetts. Unfortunately, prior to the fungal epizootic, gypsy moth caterpillars were able to defoliate over 923,000 acres across Massachusetts in 2017, according to the MA Department of Conservation and Recreation. For a map of where this occurred, visit: https://www.mass.gov/guides/gypsy-moth-in-massachusetts.
Egg masses laid by female moths in 2017 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. Gypsy moth egg hatch typically occurs between 90-100 growing degree days, using a base of 50°F and average temperatures. 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.
Now (until 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.
Despite the fungal outbreak that swept through the 2017 caterpillar population, some lucky caterpillars survived to pupation and emerged as adult moths. (However, adults were present in far fewer numbers than would have existed without the fungus.) While it is very difficult to predict how much defoliation Massachusetts will see in 2018 due to gypsy moth caterpillar feeding, we can be certain that in areas where many egg masses are currently seen overwintering, pockets of defoliation could still occur in certain areas of the state this year. Thanks to the gypsy moth caterpillar-killing fungus, however, the population should be on the decline, but we cannot expect the caterpillars to disappear completely from Massachusetts landscapes this season.
- Emerald Ash Borer: (Agrilus planipennis, EAB) A new community detection of emerald ash borer was confirmed last week by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation in Hampshire County, MA. A map of this location and others known 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 most recently, has been reported in cultivated olive (Olea europaea). 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 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.
- 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.
- Spotted Lanternfly: (Lycorma delicatula, SLF) is not known to occur in Massachusetts. This insect is a member of the Order Hemiptera (true bugs, cicadas, hoppers, aphids, and others) and the Family Fulgoridae, also known as planthoppers. This insect is a non-native species first detected in the United States in Berks County, Pennsylvania and confirmed on September 22, 2014. Until November, 2017, this invasive insect was only known to Pennsylvania. It has now been reported from Delaware (November 20, 2017), New York (November 29, 2017), and most recently in Virginia (January 10, 2018). The Delaware Department of Agriculture announced the finding of a single female spotted lanternfly in New Castle County in the Wilmington, Delaware area. At this time, officials in Delaware note that it is unclear if this individual was an accidental hitchhiker, or evidence of an established population in the state. For more information about the find in Delaware, visit: https://news.delaware.gov/2017/11/20/spotted-lanternfly-confirmed-delaware/. The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets reported on November 29, 2017 the finding of a single dead individual spotted lanternfly in the state from earlier in the month. A single dead specimen was confirmed at a facility in Delaware County, New York, which is located south-west of Albany. The NYS Dept. of Agriculture and Markets states that this dead individual may have come in on an interstate shipment. For more information about the find in New York, visit: https://www.agriculture.ny.gov/AD/release.asp?ReleaseID=3637. Most recently, Virginia Cooperative Extension announced the finding of a spotted lanternfly population in Frederick County, Virginia, on January 10, 2018. It was noted that at the location in Virginia, numerous adult lanternflies and egg masses were discovered, in addition to more at another site approximately 400 yards away. For more information about the find in Virginia, visit: https://ext.vt.edu/agriculture/commercial-horticulture/spotted-lanternfly.html.
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), apple (Malus spp.), plum, cherry, peach, apricot (Prunus spp.), grape (Vitis spp.), pine (Pinus spp.) and others.
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 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.
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 red Test a Tick button for more information.
Report by Tawny Simisky, Extension Entomologist, UMass Extension Landscape, Nursery, & Urban Forestry Program