The season is coming to a close for most - but not all - invasive species field work. For instance, as many of us are winding down outside projects, groups in Lake George are gearing up for another push to control invasive Asian clam. In the coming month, dive teams will roll out $70,000 worth of plastic mats on the bottom of the lake to smother clams found at four new locations. With plummeting water temperatures, that job is not for the faint of heart; however, swift response to these new infestations is critical to prevent another generation of breeding clams from spreading throughout the lake.
Controlling invasive species is possible; after prevention, detecting populations when they are first on the scene makes success even more likely. It is much easier and more cost effective to contain a small infestation than a large one. Think about when you feel a cold coming on - you may try to get more rest, drink more fluids and take vitamins to try to preempt the onset of the cold or at least minimize the toll it takes. The prescription is similar for the environment. Pay attention to symptoms of decline, identify the problem early on and take measures to halt its impact.
This time of year offers a great opportunity to detect symptoms of invasive forest pests and pathogens. Tree trunks and limbs are more visible when leaves are off the trees. This makes it easier to search for signs of damage from pests such as emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle, two invasive beetles from Asia that are devastating trees in the U.S.
Keep a look-out this fall and winter for signs of excessive damage from woodpeckers that searched for a meal on ash trees infested with emerald ash borer.
(Photo — Art Wagner, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org)
Emerald ash borer (EAB) is in 13 counties in New York. It has not yet been reported in the Adirondacks, but unfortunately that does not mean it isn't here. Infestations elsewhere in New York were present for 10 years before they were noticed.
EAB attacks only ash trees (Fraxinus spp.), primarily green, white and black in New York. When leaves are off of trees, the limbs and the bark are the best ways to identify species of trees. Ash limbs and branches are arranged oppositely, or directly across from one another rather than alternating. The bark on a younger ash tree is relatively smooth, but as the tree ages the bark thickens and a unique diamond-like pattern in the raised bark is noticeable.
Now is a good time to check ash trees for small, one-eighth-inch, D-shaped exit holes in the bark and splitting bark. Holes from excessive woodpecker activity can also lead you to infected trees hosting tasty EAB larvae.
Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) is another forest pest on our search and destroy list because of its potential for far-reaching impacts on forests, the wood products industry, tourism and favored street and shade trees. Our fall was spectacular this year, but imagine leaf-peeping with no maples, birch, ash and other hardwood trees. ALB attacks 18 varieties of trees making it a serious threat to forests, homeowners and economies throughout the Northeast.
Right now ALB is located in isolated infestations in Long Island, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Ohio, and eradication efforts are under way. But, ALB could be just a wooden shipping crate or firewood load away from hitching a ride and starting an outbreak in a new location.
Be on the look-out for new infestations to help limit the spread of this tree-killing pest. As they chew their way out of the tree, adult ALB leave dime-sized, one-fourth-inch or greater, perfectly round exit holes -?large enough to stick a pencil in. Resin may ooze from the exit holes. Numerous oval depressions may also be visible on the bark where adult females lay their eggs.
Every season presents an opportunity to make headway on combatting invasive species. Keep your eyes on trees this fall and winter, and report signs of EAB and ALB damage to the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program (APIPP) at 518-576-2082. Remember to use local firewood, too. Prevention is the best prescription. Thank you for your efforts to help stop the spread of invasive species. See you in the spring!
Eye on Invasives is a biweekly column that spotlights a top invader when it is easiest to identify. Hilary Smith directs the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program, a partnership program housed at the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy in Keene Valley. Find out more about this award-winning program online at www.adkinvasives.com.