Dogged determination to detect EAB

Emerald ash borer populations in Minnesota soon may have nowhere to hide. In a first-in-the-nation program that partners the state’s department of agriculture with Working Dogs for Conservation, dogs are being trained to detect EAB larvae and ash tree material with the goal of deploying dogs to assist regulatory crews in hunting down the destructive pest.

Training dogs to detect emerald ash borer is done in three stages; here, Denali is in the second phase, learning to recognize scents in a controlled setting.

Four detection dogs began their training in April, and it’s expected they’ll be ready to begin their work as soon as July. The program was developed in three phases, the first having been successfully completed when the dogs were able to consistently detect EAB infested material and ash tree material in isolated containers. The second phase requires them to recognize scents that are camouflaged with other scents in controlled settings, then move to the introduction of EAB scent in natural settings. Once the dogs have made it through Phase 3 – comprehensive searching for EAB infested and ash tree material in a natural setting – they’ll go to work in the field. They should be able to sniff mulch and yard waste piles, as well as commercial vehicles.

In a first-of-its-kind program, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and Working Dogs for Conservation are partnering to train dogs to sniff out EAB larvae and ash tree material.

“These dogs will increase our efficiency as a regulatory agency,” said MDA Plant Protection Director Geir Friisoe. “The dogs can go to one of the yard waste sites we inspect, sniff around, and signal if there is ash material or EAB infested material in a waste pile within minutes. Once trained, they are extremely proficient.”

Wicket learns to sniff out the presence of emerald ash borer infested material and ash tree material in a mulch pile.
Photos courtesy of Minnesota Department of Agriculture

Working Dogs for Conservation plans to make fully trained EAB detection dogs available for hire in any state.

Although this is the first program to train dogs to sniff out EAB, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service uses dogs to detect Asian longhorned beetle.

Got foam? Look for spittlebugs

Spittlebug (froghopper) nymphs are out and about, lathering up plants and feeding beneath the characteristic layers of foam that protect them – but also signal their presence. A wide range of more than 400 host plants can support the pest, including woody and herbaceous plants alike.

Froghopper (spittlebug) nymphs emerge in spring and begin to feed immediately.
Photo courtesy of David Cappaert, Michigan State University;

Nymphs emerge in spring and begin immediately to feed on sap while they’re protected beneath the froth. Adults, which do not produce spittle, are present during summer months and continue to feed. Although normally only one generation is produced each year, eggs overwinter and the cycle continues the following spring.

A telltale sign of spittlebug (froghopper) infestation, the frothy substance seen here on Lychnis is exuded by nymphs who feed beneath the protective foam.
Photo courtesy of Robin Rosetta, Oregon State University

If populations are present in sufficient numbers, they may cause twig and branch dieback. Spittlebugs may also vector Sphaeropsis pini, a fungus that causes flagging injury; or the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa, which causes bacterial leaf scorch.

Spittlebug damage-deformed, curling foliage-is evident on penstemon.
Photo courtesy of Robin Rosetta, Oregon State University

In June, slow moving nymphs can be revealed within the spittle; adults can be identified in July and August. Monitoring should begin early, when light infestations can be removed either by hand or by a strong blast of water. Spittlebugs have a wide variety of natural enemies, including several parasitic wasps. Chemical control should be tailored to protect these predators. Insecticidal soap or horticultural oil often is effective if thorough coverage is applied.