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The pool is open; check for forest pests

July 23, 2013
By Hilary Smith ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

It is the height of summer, and the recent heat wave may have sent you running to the nearest lake or swimming pool. Did you know that checking a pool filter is a simple way to protect your favorite trees from tree-killing pests?

If you are a homeowner, business or municipality and maintain an outdoor pool, or if you enjoy swimming at your neighbor's or the community pool, please take notice and take action. Simply snap photos of the pool filter (yes, with all of the muck and critters) and send images to It is that simple.

Being a paparazzi of pool filters for the summer can help to locate Asian longhorned beetle (ALB), one of the most threatening invasive pests to our forests. The beetle attacks more than 16 different species of hardwoods, including maples, birch and ash. ALB bores into trees, riddling the trunk and limbs with holes, causing the tree to break apart and die within five to 10 years.

Article Photos

An Asian longhorned beetle is 1 inch to 1-and-a-half inches long with a shiny black body with white spots and long, black and white banded antennae.
(Photo courtesy of Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Forestry Archive,

ALB will have devastating impacts on our wood products industry, the aesthetics of our communities and the health of our forests. Economists and ecologists estimate that if ALB is left to spread throughout the U.S., it can have an impact in the billions of dollars. Controlling ALB requires that host trees be cut and chipped, and costs are largely borne by homeowners and municipalities for tree removal.

This destructive forest pest is eating its way through our trees, but we have a chance to stop its spread. Infestations are known only in Long Island, Massachusetts and Ohio; the potential for spread, however, is throughout much of the U.S. Luckily, in some situations, eliminating the infestation is sometimes possible, but not without the loss of our street trees and backyard favorites. Control also requires tremendous financial resources to sustain detection and management efforts.

Detecting infestations early is the key to successful elimination. Citizens are often the first line of defense when they report dead and dying trees. Keep watchful eyes on hardwood trees for signs of an ALB infestation. ALB is one inch to one-and-a-half inches long with a shiny, black body with white spots and bluish tinged feet. Its antennae are white and black banded and longer than its body. Don't be deceived by a common, beneficial native look-alike, the white spotted pine sawyer, which can be distinguished from ALB by a white spot where the "shoulder blades" meet.

Fact Box

Needed: pool owners to help protect forests


Do you own a pool? Participate in the Asian long-horned beetle (ALB) Swimming Pool Survey during July and August.

Check your pool filter once a week (or when you clean your pool)

Spread out the contents and look for ALB or suspicious insects

Take a photo of suspicious insects

Email photo to the state Department of Environmental Conservation

To join this effort, contact the NYSDEC Forest Health Program at 518-810-1609 or by email at

Other symptoms of an ALB infestation include feeding patterns along the veins of leaves, dime-sized holes in the trunk and limbs of the tree; splitting bark with oozing sap; dead branches; and frass (sawdust-like material) in the notch of limbs and at the base of trees.

Forest pests such as ALB are introduced to new areas primarily through wooden packing material and infected firewood. Always use firewood local to the area you are visiting?- it supports the local economy and keeps forests healthy.

Most new forest pest infestations are discovered by citizens just like you. If you see something, say something. You can make a difference. Take notice of your woods and waters and check trees and pool filters for ALB. Report sightings to APIPP at 518-576-2082 or the state Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Health Program at 518-810-1609. For more information about ALB, log on to

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 (APIPP), 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



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