Tom Colarusso and I teamed up for an invasive insect forest survey on a sunny, warm January day. Tom is a Plant Protection and Quarantine Officer for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. We survey one campground a year for invasive insects, and his expertise has fueled my understanding of these hungry bugs.
We headed to Moffitt Beach Campground to check trees for hungry bugs like Asian longhorned beetle (ALB), emerald ash borer (EAB), and hemlock woolly Adelgid (HWA).
Forest surveys are important because hungry pests threaten to harm the ecosystem, economy, and public safety. Left unchecked, they can devastate forest industries, eliminate jobs, threaten our food supplies, and cost billions.
EAB and ALB hitchhike to new locations on firewood, making campgrounds excellent places for forest surveys. HWA spreads by the movement of infested nursery stock, animals, and wind. None of these invaders have been confirmed in Hamilton County but are found in New York State.
APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine and their State cooperators, New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, have survey tools and resources to detect invasive pests. However, these days, budgets for programs and tools can be available on a limited basis. It’s never a bad idea to supplement such programs with a grassroots approach and to hit high-risk areas of forests with hiking boots and binoculars to do some old fashioned visual forest pest surveying. Campgrounds can be higher-risk areas, potentially harboring forest pests, because in the past, campers would bring their own firewood to campsites, sometimes from very distant locations.
Signs of Invasive Insects
One sign of invasive insects that Tom and I were on the lookout for was woodpecker damage. Woodpeckers find invasive insects like emerald ash borer tasty. We checked tree bark for holes and blonding (bark removal), red flags for further investigation.
A second sign we checked for was exit holes. Using binoculars, we scanned tree bark for holes left behind by adult insects. ALB chew round, dime-sized exit holes in hardwood trees including maple, willow, elm, ash, and birch, among others. EAB produce small, D-shaped exit holes in green, white, black, and blue ash.
At the conclusion of our forest survey, we did not spot a single sign of EAB, ALB, or HWA. As we headed back to the car, Tom mentioned that more and more campers are choosing to buy certified treated firewood because they know about State regulations, and want to comply. This is good news for our forests.
Stop the Spread
- Don’t move firewood, buy firewood near where you plan to burn it, and buy certified, heat-treated wood.
- Buy your plants from a reputable source and avoid invasive plants.
- Wash outdoor gear and tires between fishing, hunting or camping trips.
- For more information about invasive insects, visit the Hungry Pests website and join the conversation about Hungry Pests on Facebook and Twitter.
- If you see signs of an invasive pest, write down or take a picture of what you see and then report it to the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District.
Photos from above: Tom Colarusso of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service checks out a maple tree, courtesy Caitlin Stewart; Asian longhorned beetle courtesy Kenneth R. Law, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org; Caitlin Stewart of the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District scans tree bark, courtesy Tom Colarusso; and Hemlock woolly adelgid courtesy USDA Forest Service.