Asian longhorned beetles (ALB) are responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of trees across the U.S., including heavy damage to maples across New York City and Long Island. To combat the invasive critter, New York environmental officials are taking a new approach to ALB detection, and they’re currently recruiting residents to aid in their unconventional efforts. What better way is there to beat the summer heat than to belly-flop (cannonball, jackknife, whatever you prefer) into the nearest, coolest, backyard pool? Apparently the allure of a nice, refreshing dip is enticing even to ALB. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is seeking pool owners in the state to help them tap into an excellent source of ALB infestation evidence: swimming pool filters.

Pool monitoring is cheap, effective and an easy way for scientists to collect data from across a large area. Some biologists even say it could become the most effective method for detecting the invasive beetles. New Hampshire and Vermont have already initiated pool monitoring programs, but have not received any reports of ALB to date.

Here’s how it works: When a resident signs on to the pool-monitoring program, they receive a packet of information including photos and descriptions to aid in the identification of the insects they collect. If they come across any bug that fits the profile, they are asked to snap a mugshot to send off to the DEC. After photographing, participants should freeze the suspect until the authorities can arrive to verify the identification.

For more information on the program, or to join the backyard beetle brigade, visit

Storm stories

As I write this we’re about halfway through the summer, and thus far the weather has been anything but dull! From record-breaking high temps to violent thunderstorms to lightning-induced forest fires, tree crews across the country have been staying on their toes (and hopefully staying safe). We want to hear your reports from the frontlines of the forest (or, urban forest). Contact me to share your storm stories from the summer of 2013, and you may see them published in an upcoming issue.

Katie Meyers