Insects, Pests & Diseases

Winter moth caterpillarPests Present in Brookline

Winter Moth

Winter Moth, a defoliating caterpillar, is an insect pest whose population is growing exponentially in the northeast, after its initial identification in 2003 in eastern Massachusetts. The insect detrimentally affects all deciduous trees and shrubs where it lays its eggs, when caterpillars feed on buds, leaves and flowers. Adult moths are visible and active during the early winter months. In accordance with the Park Division's proper integrated pest management approach, either B.t.k. or Conserve is used to control the Winter Moth in a few select areas of town. The town will continue to monitor the insect's population and impact. For current updates, photographs and other information on the Winter Moth, visit UMass Extension.

Hemlock Wooly AdelgidHemlock Woolly Adelgid

Hemlock Woolly Adelgid is an aphid-like insect that attacks hemlocks. The adelgid was discovered in Massachusetts in 1988, and has led to the death of many of the hemlocks that once flourished in this area. It is believed to be present in most hemlocks at this point. The insect feeds on the sap of the hemlock, leading to galls and/or woolly masses on the needles and stems.

The Parks Division closely monitors Brookline's hemlocks, and those that need treatment are sprayed or injected with a dormant horticultural oil as part of an integrated pest management approach. For current updates, photographs and other information on the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, visit UMass Extension.

Outstreched hand holding several long worms. The worms have a prominent band around their bodies.Asian Jumping Earthworms

Asian jumping worms devour organic matter more rapidly than their European counterparts, stripping the forest of the layer critical for seedlings and wildflowers. They were recently detected in Brookline. In areas of heavy infestation, native plants, soil invertebrates, salamanders, birds, and other animals may decline. These invasive worms can severely damage the roots of plants in gardens, forests, and turf. 

The Asian jumping worm has a prominent band around the body of the worm, called the clitellum, where cocoons are produced. One telltale sign of an infestation is a very uniform, granular soil created from worm castings. The texture of this soil is often compared to coffee grounds. When you scratch the top layer of soil you will see the worms thrashing about with an erratic, snakelike movement. If you have jumping worms, report it and avoid moving plants or soil from your yard.

Branches extend showing beech tree leaves with dark striping between leaf veins.Beech Leaf Disease

After several years of infection, indicated by progressive curling and distortion of foliage and a sparse canopy, beech leaf disease can kill beech trees. Young trees seem to be more susceptible to mortality than mature trees. Beech Leaf Disease was recently discovered on a beech tree in Larz Anderson Park. At this time, beech leaf disease spread is not well understood. It is possible the disease could be moved long distances on nursery stock or other beech material containing leaves and buds. The nematode (microscopic worm) Litylenchus crenatae has been identified in trees with beech leaf disease, but it is still unknown whether symptoms are caused by the nematode alone.

Beech Leaf Disease can be identified by distinct striping on the leaves (dark stripes between leaf veins) and distorted, puckered or curled leaves. If you see any of the tell-tale signs of Beech Leaf Disease, please take a photo and share it with the Town of Brookline's Parks and Open Space Division at [email protected]

How You Can Help

  • Keep an eye out for current risks to Brookline by inspecting trees on and around your property for signs of the Asian Longhorned Beetle or the Emerald Ash Borer. If you spot suspicious insects or tree damage, please contact the Parks and Open Space Division.
  • Do not transport wood great distances, particularly out of the Asian Longhorned Beetle regulated areas in Boston / Brookline and surrounding Worcester. Buy firewood close to where it will be burned. Campfires are not allowed in Brookline's parks, but many state parks and campgrounds that allow fires will not allow people to bring in their own firewood, because of the risks of introducing insects and pests.
  • Inform friends, family and neighbors of the risks our trees face from invasive insects, pests, and diseases.

Photos courtesy of R. Childs / UMass Extension

Insects of Concern to Brookline (Not Yet Identified in Brookline)

Mature lanternfly and immature lanternfly on a branch. Spotted Lanternfly

Spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula, “SLF”) is an invasive sap-feeding insect that attacks many different trees, shrubs, and vines, and has the potential to impact a broad range of agricultural commodities, including apples, peaches, grapes/wine, hops/beer, maple syrup, and ornamental plants. A small population was recently discovered in the City of Fitchburg, MA. While individual spotted lanternflies have been found in several different parts of the state over the past several years, this is the first evidence that Massachusetts has a breeding population. A current map showing towns and cities where SLF has been found can be downloaded from the Mass. Natural Resources Collaborations' Spotted Lanternfly page.

Spotted lanternfly nymphs (immature form) resemble large black aphids with white spots. There are three instars (phases) of these early-stage nymphs and they are usually found from April-July. Later-stage nymphs (fourth instar) are red with white spots. These are typically found from July-September. Spotted lanternfly adults may be present from July through early November. The outer wings are grey with black spots and have a brick-like pattern at the wing tips. The hidden underwings have brightly contrasting large patches of red, black, and white. The legs and head are black. The abdomen has broad black bands, with yellow on the sides. Egg masses are inch-long, rectangular masses, yellowish-brown, and covered with a gray waxy coating. The egg masses may be found on any flat surface.

If you find anything suspicious, take a photo or collect the specimen, and report the sighting using MDAR’s online reporting form. Kill spotted lanternfly adults and nymphs by crushing them with gloved hands, stomp on them by foot, or drown them in a container of soapy water or rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol). Scrape egg masses off of plants and hard surfaces such as lawn furniture, decks, and concrete surfaces using a plastic card or tool such as a putty knife. Eggs can be crushed with gloved hands or dropped into a container of rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer.

Asian Longhorned BeetleAsian Longhorned Beetle

The Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) was discovered near the Boston / Brookline boundary on July 3, 2010, and is still a significant concern for Brookline. The ALB poses a significant threat to many hardwood tree species.

Residents are encouraged to look for the ALB and report any sightings. Visit the USDA's ALB site or the Mass. Natural Resources Collaborations, or call the ALB hotline at 866-702-9938 for more information, or to report possible sightings.

The ALB has previously been discovered in the New York city area, the Chicago area, New Jersey, Ontario, and most recently in 2008 in the Worcester, Massachusetts area. The beetle infects many deciduous tree species, and damages the trees when larvae bore into the heartwood, eventually leading to the death of the tree. Infested trees show characteristic egg laying sites on the bark, round exit holes where adults have emerged, and frass or sawdust-like material on the branches or ground below.

Tree Removal

Currently, the only way to eradicate the beetles when trees are already infested, is removal of the infested trees. However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is undertaking research on controlling or preventing infestations through systemic injection of insecticides. There is significant concern that the beetle may continue to spread and drastically damage our urban forest, as well as trees throughout New England.

Additional Information

If you find a beetle that may be the ALB or a tree with damage that is consistent with this beetle, please report as noted above or by contacting the Parks and Open Space Division immediately. For current updates, photographs and other information on the ALB visit the ALB website, UMass Extension website, or Massachusetts Introduced Pests Outreach Project.

Emerald Ash BorerEmerald Ash Borer

The Emerald Ash Borer has been found in Massachusetts and is a significant concern for Brookline's trees. As of 2015, there is a statewide quarantine restricting movement of hardwood firewood and ash nursery stock and lumber outside the regulated area.

Residents are encouraged to look for the EAB and report any sightings. Visit Mass. Natural Resources Collaborations for more information, including quarantine details, or to report possible sightings.

The Emerald Ash Borer was first discovered in southeastern Michigan in 2002 and has since spread across much of the midwestern United States. The beetle has only been observed feeding on ash trees, where larvae tunnel through the wood, leading to death of branches and eventually the entire tree. Infested trees may exhibit vertical splits in the bark above feeding sites, and D-shaped holes where adults have emerged.

Additional Information

If you find a beetle that may be the Emerald Ash Borer or a tree with damage that is consistent with this beetle, please report as noted above or by contacting the Parks and Open Space Division immediately. For current updates, photographs and other information on the Emerald Ash Borer, visit the Emerald Ash Borer website, U.S. Department of Agriculture website, or Massachusetts Introduced Pests Outreach Project.