Pest guest list grows… and grows

ANCRAMDALE–No need to wait for Hollywood’s latest vampire/zombie/alien flick to be scared out of your britches. Just step outside.

As if the blazing sun, merciless heat and humidity weren’t enough, the summertime also offers a multitude of bad bugs and pesky plants to set your skin a-crawling.

Everyone should know by now about the dire consequences awaiting us should we fail to protect ourselves from ticks and mosquitoes, both of which are now in abundant supply.

As a special bonus this year, cicadas, those large, noisy, red-eyed, flying bugs are supposed to be making their once-every-17-years appearance to consume mass quantities of green stuff and breed.

But wait, there’s more, those in the know at the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Ancram Conservation Advisory Council (CAC), periodically alert us to new and improved insect and plant horrors we should be on the lookout for.

Here are just a few to contemplate while swaying in the hammock under your favorite tree:

The Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB), Anoplophora glabripennis, is an invasive species in the area that threatens the hardwood trees. Though the bug “can easily be identified, it can only be controlled by destroying the infested trees,” according to a CAC alert. These beetles are just under two-inches long, have a shiny black outer skeleton and white spots. Their black-and-white antennae are as long as their bodies. They showed up in Chicago, arriving in wood material from China in the mid 1990s. They have an insatiable taste for hardwood trees, including maple, birch, horse chestnut, poplar, willow, elm and ash. An infested tree will generally die within a year or two.

Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) can grow to 14 feet high or more. It is a “Federally listed noxious weed. Its sap, in combination with moisture and sunlight, can cause severe skin and eye irritation, painful blistering, permanent scarring and blindness. Contact between the skin and the sap of this plant occurs either through brushing against the bristles on the stem or breaking the stem or leaves,” according to the DEC.

Those who get sap on their skin should wash the area with soap and water and stay out of sunlight for 48 hours. “This plant poses a serious health threat; see your physician if you think you have been burned by giant hogweed. If you think you have giant hogweed on your property, do not touch it,” says the DEC site, which also has a map indicating an “active giant hogweed plant site” in the vicinity of northeast Taghkanic/northwest Copake.

Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis) was first discovered in the U.S. in 2002 in southeastern Michigan. These Asian beetles infest and kill North American ash species, including green, white, black and blue ash. All native ash trees are susceptible. Signs of infection include tree canopy dieback, yellowing and browning of leaves. Most trees die within two to four years of becoming infested. The emerald ash borer is responsible for the destruction of more than 50 million ash trees in the U.S. since its discovery. A DEC infestation map shows southwestern Columbia County is affected.

Garlic Mustard has become a major invasive plant in the past 10 years. Growing in the forest understory or along forest edges it also invades undisturbed forest habitats and has adapted to take advantage of trails, roadsides and areas where trees have been removed. It reproduces only by seed and has no natural enemies here. Sites invaded by garlic mustard tend to have low diversity of plants growing on the forest floor. It is widely believed that garlic mustard infestations displace native plants as well as change the environment for amphibians and insects.

Just be thankful Columbia County is not on the map of places infested with some nasty gunk called Didymo, a/k/a, rock snot, a microscopic algae that forms thick brown mats on stream bottoms and threatens aquatic habitat, biodiversity and recreational opportunities.

Not yet at least.

For more information about any of these pests visit the DEC website at www.dec.ny.gov.

To contact Diane Valden email .

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