Citizen Science

Do Your Part for Trees This August

July 21, 2015

Asian Longhorned Beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis). Photo © Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (Photographer: Jennifer Forman Orth).

Summer might be when your trees matter the most- a soft breeze whispering through the leaves in the cool of the morning, the shade of a big tree on a hot afternoon, or even the firewood you use for your summer vacation campout.

But do you know how to do your part for trees this August?

It’s pretty simple, really. Every August, you can do your part by celebrating Tree Check Month. It only takes a few minutes to check your trees for Asian longhorned beetles, and the damage their larvae leave behind.

Consider making it a part of your annual home and yard maintenance schedule, an activity that not only keeps your trees healthy but helps conservationists track damaging forest pests. Checking your trees is important because early detection of the Asian longhorned beetle can save hundreds to thousands of trees. This beetle affects lots of common deciduous trees, such as maples, birch, willow and more. So what should you look for on your trees?

  • Dime-sized, perfectly round, beetle exit holes in the trunk or branches
  • Shallow chew marks in the bark, where the beetle lays its egg
  • Sawdust-like material at the base of the tree, or where branches meet the trunk
  • Dead branches on otherwise leafy trees
  • Large shiny black beetles with white spots and white striped antennae
Asian longhorned beetle exit hole (center) and two egg laying divots (top and bottom) on an infested tree.
Asian longhorned beetle exit hole (center) and two egg laying divots (top and bottom) on an infested tree. Photo © J. Forman Orth, MA Department of Agricultural Resources.

If you think you might have found one of the signs of Asian longhorned beetles, you should go straight to and report your findings. Hopefully, most of the time, you won’t find anything signs of this highly damaging pest. So are you done?

Nope: you’ve still got one more thing to do. Promise yourself that you’ll choose the right kind of firewood for all your campfire and home heating needs. Tell everyone – your friends, your family, your neighbors – they shouldn’t move firewood when they travel or camp. Moving firewood can spread invasive forest pests that can be deep within the wood or the bark, pests like Asian longhorned beetle, emerald ash borer, and more.

Instead of taking firewood with you, you’ve got three good choices: buy firewood from the campground host or concessionaire, gather firewood around your campsite when that is permitted, or buy certified heat treated firewood – with a either a state seal or a USDA APHIS seal of compliance- before you go.

If you are buying firewood for your home heating needs, make sure the supplier is from within your county- and that they are aware of all state and federal regulations in your area. Firewood dealers should be aware of, and in compliance with, all the newest regulations- otherwise, you should to take your business elsewhere.

Certified heat-treated firewood. Photo © L. Greenwood.
Certified heat-treated firewood. Photo © L. Greenwood.

It is up to you to figure out what firewood is the right kind of firewood for you. Just remember the simple rule: don’t move firewood. Moving firewood over long distances isn’t safe for the forest, and in fact it is often against state or federal regulations.

Everyone has a role to play in keeping our trees healthy. Best of all, it’s easy. Make this August the start of two simple summer traditions- check your trees for Asian longhorned beetle, and buy or gather firewood locally- that will keep forest pests at bay for years to come.

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