Benefits Beyond the Bird Count-Tree Pests

Benefits Beyond the Bird Count-Tree Pests

During this year’s Christmas Bird Count (, put on annually by the Audubon Society running 12/14/2014-1/15/2015, scientists at the Nature Conservancy ask citizen scientists for help identifying signs of damage from invasive tree pests such as the emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle, among others.

Invasive insects are often preyed upon by woodpeckers which leave telltale signs for birders to identify. This damage will fall into one of three categories; natural woodpecker damage foraging on native insects, heavy damage from woodpeckers foraging on high densities of invasive insects in trees, and signs of damage from the life cycle of the invasive insects themselves. Several state and agricultural agencies are encouraging and helping the public to learn the difference between typical woodpecker and sapsucker foraging and damage incurred by invasive pests.

Jennifer Forman Orth, State Plant Pest Survey Coordinator at the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources states, “The Christmas Bird Count is an ideal opportunity for bird watchers to check the trees for signs of invasive pests like Asian longhorned beetle and emerald ash borer. The damage from these insects can easily be seen in winter, when there are no leaves on the trees, and birdwatchers are typically armed with a pair of binoculars that will help them check high-up branches for the perfectly round holes left by Asian longhorned beetles in maples and other hardwoods, or the increased woodpecker activity and removal of bark (“blonding”) caused by excessive woodpecker activity associated with emerald ash borer infestations in ash trees.”

Participants can download the up to date version of the Birder’s Field Guide to Holes in Trees here: This concise photo guide illustrates the difference between typical foraging, heavy foraging seeking invasive pest larvae and damage from insects themselves. Birders involved in the Christmas County should report suspicious or any signs of tree pests once they have submitted their bird count data to the compiler. Taking digital photos and detailed notes to accompany reports of potential invasive pests is highly encouraged.

Insects of the highest concern and websites where more information can be found and sightings can reported are listed below:

If you have questions or concerns regarding tree pests on your property, contact your arborist and visit: