Friday, August 14, 2020

Maine seeks public's help in checking trees for invasive species

By Ed Pierce
According to state forestry officials, the month of August is the most active time of the year for invasive insects in Maine and a period when adult wood-boring insect life and certain tree diseases can be easily identified.
Representatives of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are asking the public to examine trees in their communities and forests and report any visible invasive pest activity they see. such as the Emerald Ash Borer and Spotted Laternfly have made their way into Maine in the last few years and state forestry officials are striving to limit their damage here. 
"Our first defense against invasive species is to prevent their arrival in the first place," said Maine State Horticulturist Gary Fish. “Our partners at USDA APHIS and Customs and Border Protection here in the U.S. and Canadian Food Inspection Agency north of the border frequently stop plant pests before they can gain a foothold in North America. However, the volume of trade and travel prevents them from stopping every pest.”
Forestry officials say that invasive species are non-native organisms and species that when introduced to a new environment lack natural predators or diseases to keep their populations low. Species are considered invasive when they harm the environment, the economy or human health.
Patty Cormier, a Maine State Forester, said that she recognizes the importance that the public can play in protecting trees across the state from invasive species.
“Trees play an important role in our state economy and provide environmental benefits, including clean air and water and wildlife habitat and recreation opportunities,” Cormier said. “The public, our most important partner in detecting invasive species, is our eyes on the ground. We can avoid tree-loss from invasive species by stopping the spread of these pests.”
While checking trees, state officials urge the public to report finding these four invasive species:
  • The emerald ash borer, a small metallic-green insect which are deadly for ash trees. They leave small one-eighth inch D-shaped  exit holes in ash bark, and deposit a sawdust-like waste for feeding under the bark. The emerald ash borer has been identified in York and Cumberland Counties and in northwestern Aroostook County in Maine.
  • Spotted lanternfly, a colorful planthopper and a hitchhiker that damages grapes, hops, and a wide variety of plants. Adults lay eggs as dull-colored masses and can appear as brightly colored nymphs and adults on plants. Identification is important because while the living spotted lanternfly population dies during the winter, their egg masses of 30 to 50 eggs laid in neat rows remain and survive through the cold to hatch in the spring.
  • Asian longhorn beetles feed on maple trees and other hardwood or broadly leaved trees. The public is asked to examine trees for oval to round wounds on the bark where the Asian longhorn beetle females have chewed out an indentation to deposit their eggs, leaving piles of coarse sawdust at the base of trees.
  • Oak wilt disease is serious fungal disease affecting oak trees by suddenly wilting red oak trees during summer months.
“We’re asking people to take 10 minutes to search the trees in their yards, neighborhoods, and forests,” Cormier said. “If you find a suspected invasive pest, take a picture and send us information at Its quick and easy and will connect you with an expert who can help.”
Cormier said that the photographs should show enough detail that an expert can verify or determine if follow-up is needed.
“It can be helpful to include an object, such as a coin or pencil, for scale,” she said.
If it is an insect, Cormier recommends trying to capture it in case a photograph is not enough for forestry officials.
“Otherwise, make sure you can find the affected tree again if needed,” she said. “Captured insects can be stored in hard containers in a cool place. Most will survive in the refrigerator long enough to receive a response from the department.”
State officials say that there are simple actions that everyone can take to avoid introducing and spreading invasive insects in Maine.
They recommend only purchasing firewood where you’ll be burning it or gathering locally on site when permitted. When transporting or moving firewood, they suggest an inspection to detect invasive insects hiding within log piles.
Another suggestion is when driving to a new area in Maine, carefully inspect bags and boxes to ensure they are free from insects or invasive species.
Fish said that we all have a role to play in preventing invasive species movement in Maine.
“Taking just a few minutes to check the trees in your yard can go a long way to ensuring that the forests and trees we rely on now are here for future generations,” he said. <

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