Friday, June 3, 2011

June 3, 2011

Monitoring Forest Pests by the Pool

From the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension

Protecting New Hampshire’s forest from invasive pests is daunting. It takes political will, action plans, scientific knowledge, funding, staffing, planning, lots of hard work, and most importantly the help of the public. The ultimate in invasive pest management is to keep the pest out of New Hampshire altogether. Short of that we need to find the infestation soon after its accidental arrival when the outbreak is geographically small and affects few trees. Case in point, in 2008 the Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) was discovered in Worcester, Massachusetts setting off one of the most extensive and expensive forest pest eradication programs in history. The reason it became so extensive and thus very expensive is that the outbreak went undetected for more than ten years. In those 10 to 15 years the infestation spread to over 70 square miles around Worcester, MA.

To meet the goal of keeping invasive pests out of New Hampshire we’re studying modes of transportation and natural vectoring capabilities of ALB and designing quarantines to limit the movement of host material. To meet the goal of finding any accidental introduction early when it’s a manageable problem we need the help of the general public. To that end, the Division of Forests and Lands worked jointly with the UNH Cooperative Extension to develop a “citizen monitoring program” that would help survey for devastating forest pests such as Asian longhorned beetle and emerald ash borer. This past summer a group of volunteers were trained to collect insects from outdoor swimming pool filters.

Why pools as collection sites? Days after the discovery of ALB in Worcester experts were canvassing neighborhoods investigating the extent of the outbreak when they stumbled across a public pool attendant who said he was collecting these beetles for years in his pool filters. We used this knowledge to create a program designed to reach out to pool sites around the state. We asked attendants to collect insects found in their pools for six weeks in July and August when the potential flight period of the ALB is at its peak. This past summer 34 volunteers distributed throughout all regions of the state participated in the project. On a weekly basis the UNH County Extension Forester visited those sites in their county and swapped empty jars for full jars of insects the volunteers had collected. This was repeated for six weeks in July and August when the weather was warm enough to support adult ALB activity. The jars of insects were delivered to the Division of Forests and Lands Forest Health lab at Fox State Forest in Hillsborough. The insects were sorted by order, family and species to determine if any target species like ALB were present.

The results of collecting insects in pools were absolutely spectacular. At those 34 sites from around the state we collected 5,811 insects in 18 different orders. 2,444 of those were in the order Coleoptera (beetles) and that was really important because our target species, ALB, is a beetle. There is no doubt that if there was an infestation of ALB anywhere near those pools we would’ve collected some in the survey.

Read the full story at link.


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