Seek and You Might Find: Geocaching In NYS Parks

I am not stealthy. This is not new information, but I didn’t realize how sloppy I was at sneaking around until I tried geocaching—a worldwide game of locating some of millions of little hidden stashes.

This outdoor activity relies on the use of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology, where participants place caches of trinkets, also known as “hides,” in various places, and record locations with GPS coordinates to the website geocaching.com. Cache-seekers then use those coordinates with their own GPS devices to locate the caches, and can take some trinkets and leave some of their own for subsequent seekers to find.

And there are a lot of little hidden treasures out there. For example, the website above indicates there are more than 2,800 caches hidden around the Albany region.

On my first go at it, I found myself lifting low-lying tree limbs and creeping around bushes in search of tiny containers along a busy section of the Empire State Trail, the new 750-mile multi-use trail that connects New York City to the Canadian border, and Albany to Buffalo. While I was doing this, a woman in an SUV noticed me and I could tell I was acting a bit too suspicious for her taste. She stopped her car, watched me, and didn’t continue driving until I left that section of sidewalk.

After this inauspicious start, I was in awe of more experienced hobbyists, known as geocachers or cachers. After examining the map on the official geocaching app, it turned out there was a cache hidden close to my home. Strangers had been snooping around the area to try to find it and I hadn’t even noticed them! Luckily, the 2021 New York State Geocache Challenge is here this summer, so I will have plenty of time to hone my skills.

Volunteers and New York State Park workers have concealed more than 230 geocaches with items like stickers, toy cars, and figurines in 56 State Parks and Historic Sites in Central New York, the Saratoga-Capital Region, and the Hudson Valley. Adventurers who find at least 45 caches (at least 35 in a specific region, and up to 10 in either of the other two regions) will receive a geocache challenge geocoin representing the primary region.

The obverse of the geocoin for the Saratoga Capital Region.

The geocoins are trackables, each with a unique identifying number that can be activated online and then tracked as coins are located, reported and moved to new locations by subsequent geocachers.

So far, the geocoin that has traveled the furthest from a State Park is from the 2015  Saratoga-Capital District Region Geocache Challenge. Now settled outside Salt Lake City, Utah, the token (TB6Y60Y) has so far trekked 160,500 miles to such places as the Mediterranean island of Malta, Germany, the Kapaleeshwarar Temple in India, Japan, Israel, and nearly three hundred other places.

Some geocachers are nearly as well-traveled. Larry Eaton is the Saratoga-Capital region’s geocache volunteer coordinator and during his two decades, he has logged about 17,500 caches, with about 1,500 of those found in State Parks. Though this seems like a daunting number to some, Larry knows cachers who have found hundreds of thousands of caches.

Eaton and his companion, Sadie, out on the trail.

But most geocachers start with smaller beginnings. David Brooks is the education manager at the Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site and serves as the park’s liaison for this year’s Saratoga-Capital District Regional Geocache Challenge. As more geocaches came to his site, he became more interested in the hobby. He decided to try it with his son after being inspired by a volunteer at his historic site named Barbara, who used the hobby to spend more time with her son.

When putting out caches in the historic site, Brooks likes mixing the environment and history of Schoharie Crossing, which focuses on the history of the Erie Canal. One year, he and Barbara put created an innovative cache that involved a small boat on a pulley system.

Some geocachers take pride in creating such clever hiding places. Eaton said once a geocacher in the Capital Region built a replica of the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz out of an old furnace and hid a cache inside of it. There are also different kinds of caches for folks to get creative with, including puzzle caches and different types of challenge caches that require specific skills and tasks to obtain.

A cleverly disguised cache made from an owl decoy.

All the State Parks geocaches that are part of the challenges are free to find and access, though there may be fees to enter the parks. To participate, you can download the pick up a passport in person from a park or historic site or find it on their website.

For passports, click on the name each region involved to download a PDF, which outlines which Parks contain the geocaches: Central, Saratoga-Capital and Taconic.

To find the caches, download the Geocaching app or follow the coordinates of the caches listed on the Geocaching.com website. When you find a cache, stamp your passport with the stamp inside each cache the turn it in to the state park indicated on the passport. Remember to leave the stamp behind for others that come after you. The challenge runs through November 11, 2021.

Stay on or near trails, take care not to trample vegetation, put everything back as you found it.

And please, don’t set up your own geocaches without checking with your Park manager first. State Park rules require that any geocaches in State Parks must be approved beforehand and follow rules to protect sensitive environmental or historic areas and public safety. Keep it safe, keep it fun! Happy seeking!



Cover shot – The reverse side of the 2021 New York State Parks Geocache Challenge. All photos by NYS Parks.

Post by Jessica Andreone, Environmental Educator, Central Region of New York State Parks.

State Parks Trails for All: Measuring Accessibility

For people with differing levels of physical ability, it can be difficult to know in advance whether a hiking trail might be too steep, too narrow, too soft, or otherwise not suitable.

Here at State Parks, we are working to help address that through something called the Universal Trail Assessment Process (UTAP). Developed in the 1990s by a Nevada-based company specializing in aiding differently abled people to engage in recreation, UTAP is a system of objective measurements taken at specific intervals along an unpaved trail to form an accurate picture of its difficulty, in terms of grade, width, surface firmness and cover.

UTAP is the creation of Beneficial Designs, whose founder Peter Axelson suffered a spinal injury in the mid-1970s. Axelson later went on to become a championship alpine adaptive skier and founded his company to design and fabricate adaptive recreational equipment for people with mobility impairments. The company also develops accessibility standards for ski areas, amusement parks, playgrounds and other outdoor recreation environments.

Parks is entering our third year of the UTAP program, having measured more than 19 miles of trails at 17 different State Parks in 2019 and 2020. It is a time consuming process done on foot with several hand tools, with measurements taken at least every 100 feet. That has meant nearly 1,200 individual measurement points have been recorded so far!

So if any hikers encounter Parks staff carrying a clinometer (a protractor-like device used to measure grade), a hand-held roller wheel (used to measure distance), a level, and a hand-held GPS unit (used to record locations), they have seen the UTAP process in action.

The trail measuring tools under the Universal Trail Assessment Program. (Photo credit – Beneficial Design)
Student Conservation Association member Tyler Stempsey measures trail accessibility at the Olana State Historic Site. (Photo credit – NYS Parks)

This year, a new wheeled “buggy” is being acquired by State Parks that will carry a laptop computer to make measurement recording faster. With the buggy, an entire mile of trail can be measured in about an hour, a big improvement over doing everything manually.

This work is being supported by a Recreational Trail Program (RTP) grant from 2019, with the project currently scheduled to run through 2022.

These thousands of measurements are meant to identify which Parks trails meet what is called Recreational Trail Accessibility Standards (RTAS), which State Parks adopted from the United States Access Board standards and United States Forest Service standards Trail Accessibility Guidelines. These standards set requirements for maximum trail steepness, width, surfaces, passing space, resting areas, trailheads, gates, and signage.

With such measurements, Parks will be able to publicize trails that already comply with RTAS and prioritize trail improvement projects that would increase trail compliance with RTAS.

A sample is shown here of how measurements and surface conditions developed through UTAP can be represented visually. This shows a steep pitch across a trail, called a cross slope, that results in a soft, damp trail surface with mud, a situation which would render that trail out of compliance with the RTAS requirements.

So far, trails identified as meeting these standards include the Upper Falls Lookout Trail at Letchworth State Park and the Awosting Falls Connector Trail at Minnewaska State Park Preserve.

There are also several trails that are close to meeting RTAS with minor modifications including: the Bog Trail at Chenango Valley State Park, the Beacon Hill Trail at Minnewaska State Park, the Bike Path at Schodack Island State Park, and the Green Lakes and Round Lakes Trail at Green Lakes State Park.

This map shows trails in State Park showing where UTAP measurements have been made. (Photo Credit – NYS Parks)

Work is currently under way to improve the Green Lakes trails (park is #3 on the map above) so it meets standards.

More information on the UTAP assessment process and standards specific to State Parks and the trails examined so far, as well as an interactive version the above map, can be found here.

Once the measurement data is compiled and finalized, Parks will be able to provide a listing of accessible trails, as well as focus future improvement efforts on trails close to meeting accessibility standards.

The data we are collecting will also allow Parks to create detailed trail access information signs, which would provide visitors at trailheads with vital information such as slope, surface cover, distance, clearance, and elevation gains.

An example of a trail sign based on measurements of grade and cross slope taken under the UTAP system. (Photo Credit – Beneficial Designs)

The goal of the UTAP program is to make Parks trails more inclusive to all, regardless of ability. If you have a favorite trail that could be assessed for accessibility, let us know in the comments!


Cover Shot – Parks staffer Sean Heaton assesses trails at Minekill State Park in Schoharie County. (Photo Credit – NYS Parks)

Post by Victoria Roberts, GIS/Accessible Trails Technician, NYS Parks

Get Out and Explore … The Long Island Region of New York State Parks

Cactus actually grows along the beach at a State Park in Long Island, the southernmost point in New York State.

At 120 miles long and 23 miles at its widest point, Long Island is home to nearly 8 million people, making it the most populated island in the United States, but also has places wild and remote to hike and explore nature. This region is noted for its beaches, golf courses, arboretums and grand estates, containing 30 State Parks and two arboreta to enjoy. The eastern end of Long Island is forked, and at the end of each fork is a State Park: Montauk on the south and Orient Beach on the north.

Formed by glacial movement that ended some 10,000 years ago, Long Island readily exhibits its origins, from the rocky bluffs of the north shore, including giant  boulders, called glacial erratics, to the fine grained, sandy beaches of the south shore, remnants of the glacial outwash plain. The region’s parks highlight many of these features, providing wonderful opportunities to get out and explore!

To start, any successful hike starts with a good map. Maps for hiking trails and a variety of other useful information on State Parks, including those in the Long Island region and other regions, are now available on the NYS Parks Explorer app. The free app, which is available for use on Android and iOS devices, is easy to download, user friendly and allows patrons to have park information readily available every State Parks facility across the state.

Trail maps are also available on each individual park website page at parks.ny.gov and at the main office of each park. Links to maps are also included in the trail descriptions in this post. Be sure to download maps ahead of time to your phone or tablet, and maybe even carry a paper copy as a back up to aid your hike.

As with all hikes, there are a few things to remember beyond carrying a mobile phone. Check the weather forecast before you go, and dress appropriately. Wear sturdy, yet comfortable shoes or boots, bring enough water and snacks, and perhaps carry a camera to capture what you see. Be mindful of wildlife and give it appropriate space, particularly in areas marked as protected, such as for shorebird nesting.

Always be aware of your surroundings and mindful of hikes on steep terrain or those that go near cliff tops. Having a small first-aid kit available in case of an emergency is never a bad idea.

Hiking poles are also useful on longer hikes and can transfer some of the stress of hiking from your knees and legs to your arms and back.

Hikers should plan their route in advance, know how long a trail is and how long it ought to take to finish. If weather conditions change for the worse, be prepared to turn back. Don’t let a desire to reach a specific destination make you press on. Since daylight is not an unlimited resource, even in spring and summer when days are longer, tossing a flashlight or headlamp into your backpack is a good form of insurance, should you unexpectedly find yourself on the trail as dusk approaches.

State Park facilities are carry-in, carry-out, so don’t leave trash behind. Follow Leave No Trace principles to keep trails clean for everyone.

Additionally, as incidents of tick-borne diseases surge in the state, it is always important to check yourself for ticks after being outside, even if it is only time spent in your own backyard.

Lastly, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, remember to practice safe social distancing, particularly in parking lots and at trailheads, and use face coverings when a distance of six feet cannot be maintained, even if you have been vaccinated. To learn more about important COVID safety guidelines, click HERE.


Hempstead Lake State Park, 100 Lake Drive, West Hempstead (516)766-1029: Situated in western Long Island, this park is a family-friendly facility that includes playgrounds and picnic areas. Within its 737 acres are several bodies of water: Hempstead Lake, the largest lake in Nassau County, as well as Northwest Pond, Northeast Pond, MacDonald Pond, Shodack Pond and South Pond. Popular for picnicking and fishing, this suburban park offers peaceful nature walks. A lovely green oasis surrounded by suburbia, it is a good spot for bird watching, and the colorful oak forests reflecting off the water are beautiful in the fall.

Some popular trails include:

  • Blue: 1 mile – Located on the North side of the Southern State Parkway, starting near Eagle Ave, this secluded natural trail overlooks North West Pond and meets the Green Trail near Hempstead High School.
  • Green : 1 mile – Also located on the North side of the Southern State Parkway, this natural trail runs parallel to the green trail.  It has views of the Hempstead Golf and Country Club, connecting to the Blue Trail near Hempstead High School.
  • Red: 3 mile – Located South of the Southern State Parkway, this natural trail overlooks Hempstead Lake.  Parallel hiking trails exist along the shoreline on the East and West sides of Hempstead Lake.
  • Bike trail: 2.4 mile – Mostly paved, this trail connects the parking fields, playgrounds, and walking paths throughout the park.  Sections of the trail are on service drives with vehicular traffic.

Find a trail map here.

Getting there: Take exit 18 off the Southern State Parkway. Make a right off the exit and follow the road south to reach the parking lots.

Hemstead Lake

Connetquot River State Park Preserve, Oakdale (631) 581-1005: At 3,473 acres, this preserve on the South Shore is the largest State Park on Long Island. A former hunting and fishing club, the land has been protected from development for more than 150 years. As a result, it is a pristine area that is home many rare species. The Preserve had more than over 50 miles of trails, but there are five established marked trails.

Yellow: 1 mile long (2 miles round trip) an easy walk through oak forest that ends at the trout hatchery, where trout have been raised for over 100 years.

Red: 1.5 miles – travels on the east side of the river, the red trail weaves through pine and oak forest and also ends at the hatchery. Either the red or the yellow trails can be taken back to the parking lot.

Green: 3.6 miles – travels the north – south length of the park.

Blue: 8 miles – a long loop that goes through some of the less travelled areas of the preserve.

Greenbelt: 4.4 miles – the Greenbelt trail runs between the north and south shores of Long Island, and part of it travels through the preserve.

Find a trail map here.

Getting there: the only entrance to the Preserve is located on the westbound side of Sunrise Highway (Route 27) in Bohemia.

A view during the fall of the Connetquot River from the Bunces Bridge, which is found on the Green and White trails.

Camp Hero State Park, 1898 Montauk Highway, Montauk (631) 668-3781: Located on the tip of the south fork, this unusual facility covers 415 acres of woodlands and bluffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It was once a U.S. military installation commissioned for coastal defense during World War II that was disguised to look like a fishing village.

The military radar array at Camp Hero.

Listed as a National Historic Site, the park opened in 2002 and includes several trails, including the Paumonok Trail at 3.4 miles that travels around the park an and offers dramatic ocean views, as well as shorter trails of a half-mile or less that lead to the historic military buildings.

The bluffs here feature a geological formation called hoodoos, which are tall, thin spires of rock or hardened soil. Hoodoos typically consist of relatively soft rock topped by harder, less easily eroded stone that protects each column from the elements.

Find a trail map here.

Hoodoos at Camp Hero State Park.

Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve, 25 Lloyd Harbor Road, Huntington (631) 423-1770): The park has roots in history, residing on the former grounds of the 1750-acre estate of investment banker and philanthropist Marshall Field III. Developed in 1921, it was a self-sufficient farm including its own water and electrical supply. Many of the structures still exist.

Earlier history can be found at the 1711 Henry Lloyd Manor house. The land has several different ecosystems including pine forests, a freshwater pond, tulip poplar forests, a saltwater marsh, and grasslands.

This large park has many trails for pedestrians, equestrians and cyclists. The most popular is the 2.4 mile paved loop trail, which is bicycle and stroller-friendly. The trail passes the Marshall Field III estate, which offers a beautiful vista of the Fresh Pond, the Long Island Sound, and Connecticut.

Find a map here.

Getting there: From Main Street in Huntington, take West Neck Road north for about 4.5 miles, where it will become Lloyd Harbor Rd. The entrance will be on the left in about .4 mile.

A view of Fresh Pond, the Long Island Sound, and Connecticut in the distance from the Marshall Fields III estate at Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve.

Jones Beach State Park, 2400 Ocean Parkway, Wantagh (516) 785-1600: With more than 2,400 acres of marine environment, the flagship park at Jones Beach is a unique spot located on the south shore bordering the Atlantic Ocean, offering seven miles of fine-grained white quartz-sand beachfront to enjoy. The pristine area of the West End includes more than 100 acres of coastal dune habitat. There are no established trails, but there are eight parking lots, each one provides access to the beachfront, and the ocean vistas are unrivalled.

Birders and those seeking a quieter experience can watch for a variety of shore birds, such as oystercatchers, terns, skimmers, plovers, and many more. Children can collect shells along the seashore and encounter large horseshoe crabs. A pleasant pastime is a long, leisurely walk on the beach to the east or west of the central part of the park, where fewer people will be encountered.

The Atlantic Ocean at Jones Beach.

Those who wish to ride their bikes may do so year-round on our boardwalk.  Glide along the beach on Long Island’s premier bike path, the Ocean Parkway Coastal Greenway, which begins at Cedar Creek Park in Seaford. From there it’s a 5.4 mile ride to Jones Beach’s East Bathhouse on the Boardwalk.  There you can either lock up your bike for a stroll, or keep cycling to the food concessions.

Or stay on the extension on the north side of Ocean Parkway to pedal another 3.6 miles to Tobay Beach where there are more restaurants and a playground. The bike path extends even further east, 13 miles, to Captree State Park. Restrooms are available on the bikeway at mileage 5.4 to 9. 

At Jones Beach, if you choose to stay the path of the two-mile boardwalk, the new multi-use path extends from the boardwalk at Field 1 to the West End area of the park for an additional 2.3 miles.

Find a map here.

A section of the newly completed Ocean Park Coastal Greenway on the way to Jones Beach State Park.

Orient Beach State Beach Park, 4000 Main Road (Route 25), Orient (631) 323-2440: Located on the eastern tip of the north fork of Long Island, this unique 363-acre park stretches southwest into Gardiners Bay. It has a playground, picnic areas, kayak rental and more than eight miles of waterfront beach.

A walk west on the beachfront goes along ‘Long Beach’, a rich ecosystem which was designated a “National Natural Landmark” in 1980.  Native prickly pear cactus is abundant there. At only .3 miles, the Roy Lathan trail has interpretive signs that highlight the unique flora and other shore plants.

The park also is open for kayakers, with water routes around Hallock’s Bay and the Gardiner’s Bay side of Orient Point as described in this guide.

Find a trail map here.

Getting there: Head east on Sound Avenue, which will become Route 48 and then Route 25, which will take you to the end of the island. The entrance in on the right.

Long Beach at Orient Beach State Park

Sunken Meadow State Park: Rte. 25A and Sunken Meadow Parkway, Kings Park (631) 269-4333: Located on the north shore of Long Island, Sunken Meadow State Park has 1,287 acres and a variety of habitats, including woodlands, tidal creek, saltwater marshes and about 1.5 miles of beachfront. Amenities include swimming, kayak launch, playgrounds, ball fields, picnic areas, golf course, and a .75-mile boardwalk along the beach.

There are unmarked trails through the woodlands, many that are used for cross country track meets. Some of the more popular trails include:

Wetland trail: The trail is a 2.6 mile out-and-back trail that runs alng the saltmarsh, through woodlands and back along the creek to the inflow of fresh water near the southern border of the park.

Greenbelt Trail: This 32-mile trail spans the width of the island from Hecksher State Park on Great South Bay north to Sunken Meadow State Park being the northern most point. In the park, the Greenbelt Trail traverses 2.5 miles, and offers beautiful views from the bluff of the Long Island and Connecticut.

Get a trail map here.

Getting there: Head north on the Sunken Meadow Parkway, which ends at the park.

Long Island Sound as seen from the Greenbelt Trail in Sunken Meadow State Park.

Cover Shot – Prickly pear cactus grows in the sandy soil at Orient Beach State Park. All photos by NYS Parks.

Get Out, Darned Spot!

Some of you may have heard about New York’s newest worst pest: The Spotted Lanternfly. This little critter is ransacking our crops, destroying property, annoying park visitors, and generally making everything sticky and gross.

An artistic image of an adult Spotted Lanternfly (SLF) is the top of this article. We are asking for volunteers like you to look for and report any SLF and its favorite Tree-of-Heaven (TOH) plant using the invasive species tracking software iMap either online or on the mobile app.

What is the Spotted Lanternfly (SLF)?

The Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula), is an invasive species from parts of China, India, Vietnam and Taiwan, which feeds on more than 70 different plants (especially the invasive Tree-of-Heaven).

The invasive Tree-of-Heaven, a favorite of the Spotted Lanternfly, is present in much of New York State (Photo Credit – New York State Floral Atlas, National Forest Service)
The leaves and flowers of the Tree-of-Heaven (Photo credit – University of Georgia/Bugwood.org)

As an unintended consequence of global trade, the insect  likely reached North America due to inadvertently hitching a ride in cargo shipping containers in the Far East. First reported in Pennsylvania in 2014, SLF has spread to neighboring states when people accidentally move stowaway egg masses to new locations.

Such international shipping has helped spread many invasives species, and national governments have been slow to recognize and address the issue.

Why do we need to “Stop the Spot?”

According to a Penn State study at the College of Agricultural Science, if not contained, damage caused by SLF is estimated to cost “at least $324 million annually and cause the loss of about 2,800 jobs” in Pennsylvania alone.

Spotted Lanternflies feed upon fruit trees, grapevines and hops (which hurts fruit, wine and beer production, an important and growing industry in the Finger Lakes and other areas of New York State), and our beautiful hardwood trees. At the same time, they secrete a sticky honeydew which creates a sooty mold that damages property.

The honeydew and mold also attract stinging insects such as wasps and bees, creating an overall unpleasant atmosphere. No one wants to do outdoor activities when everything is covered in sugary bug poop.

A representation of the Spotted Lanternfly during its lifecycle. A winged adult SLF is center. The insect as it appears with black and white markings after hatching during May and June is to the right. As the insect matures, it changes from black to mainly red, usually during July through September, as shown to the left. It assumes it adult, winged form in late summer, and lays its eggs in the fall, starting the cycle again. (Artwork by Juliet Linzmeier, Student Conservation Association member, Invasive Species Unit, NYS Parks)

            Where is it?

It could be right by you this year! Here is our most up-to-date map of known SLF infestations. Your reports of sightings could change the way this map looks!

On this map, currently infested counties are highlighted blue, while isolated sightings are represented by a red dot. Note that Ithaca County, in the heart of Finger Lakes wine country, is currently listed as infested. However, since infestation in New York State is not yet widespread, there is still time for us all to take important and effective action to mitigate the spread of SPF.

How do we “Stop the Spot?”

Remember these three steps: Report. Inspect. Destroy.

  • REPORT sightings of SLF
    • Download the iMapInvasives Mobile app or go online. You’ll be adding directly into our database.
    • Be sure to take pictures at any life stage (egg masses, larvae, adult insect or groups of infestations) with an item like a ruler or coin for scale.
    • Include the location: address or GPS coordinates (simply enable your location tracking when using the iMap app).
    • Adopt a square!: Consider signing up for a grid square near you to keep us regularly updated about special high-priority locations. 
    • Prefer E-mail? Send your info to SpottedLanternfly@agriculture.ny.gov
    • Eggs are laid on hard surfaces and may be covered or uncovered.
  • INSPECT your gear for stowaways and egg masses
    • Check your car, equipment, and materials when coming from infested areas (certain counties in Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland).
    • Egg masses can sometimes resemble mud, and these hitchhikers will hide in your car’s bumper, hood, etc.
  • DESTROY 
    • For every single SLF you kill, you prevent potentially hundreds of plant-sucking critters from draining our economy next year.
    • Look for the different stages throughout the year. Right now in May, focus your search for the nymphs: The first instar nymph is approximately ¼” long and black with white spots, and occasionally mistaken for a tick. Second and third instar nymphs are also black with white spots, but the fourth instar nymph takes on a red coloration with white spots and can be up to ¾”. Fourth instar nymphs molt and become adults approximately 1 inch in length.
    • If egg masses are found, scrap off and destroy them by putting them into doubled bags with alcohol/hand sanitizer, or by smashing/burning them. Honestly, get as dramatic as you want.
The lifecycle of the Spotted Lanternfly, which should be hatching out from its overwintering eggs during May and June. (Photo Credit – Cornell University/NY Integrated Pest Management)

How we manage SLF

While preventative measures are always best, the sooner a new infestation is found, the better chance we have of managing the situation. Our Park’s staff use a combination of strategies to manage SLF, some of which get quite creative…

  • Sticky bands and circle traps on trees will catch some nymphs and adults but are mostly useful for helping us monitor SLF whereabouts.
  • Bio-controls (predators, parasitoids, and insect-killing fungus) are in the works to help control SLF long-term but aren’t happening yet.
  • We’ll also create “trap trees” where we’ll cut most of the invasive Tree of Heaven, then inject a pesticide into the remaining tree. This kills any SLF that take a drink (like how flea treatments on your dog will kill any flea that takes a bite!).
  • Scraping egg masses and destroying them reduces next year’s population.
  • Be aware of look-alikes as seen in this poster

Even with these strategies, we need all the help we can get to stop these spots! Help us by killing SLF at all life stages.

Destroy their egg masses!

Stomp black/red nymphs!

Squish the flying adults!

And then tell us about it when you do.

There’s even a new app specifically for squishing SLF called Squishr which aims to make the hunt into a fun competition for the whole family (especially kids)!

Researchers need as much time as possible to investigate the best possible methods for managing SLF before they damage our resources even worse, so reporting new infestations makes a huge difference!

Through a collective effort of reporting, destroying, and inspecting for stowaways, we can combat the spread of the Spotted Lanternfly. 

For more information, go to Spotted Lanternfly – NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation


Cover shot – An adult Spotted Lanternfly. Artwork by Juliet Linzmeier.

Post by Juliet Linzmeier, Student Conservation Association member, Invasive Species Unit, NYS Parks

Wasp Warriors Aid Parks Against Insect Invaders

If you haven’t noticed, New York’s ash trees have been struggling lately. Over the last few years, they have been rapidly dying due to a little iridescently green insect: the emerald ash borer (EAB).

An invasive beetle native to parts of Asia and Russia, EAB was first discovered in New York in Cattaraugus County in 2009. It has since spread to 55 of New York’s 62 counties, decimating once thriving ash populations.

Since its discovery in southeast Michigan in 2002, EAB has spread into 35 states and the District of Columbia, killing tens of millions of ash trees in their wake.

EAB is widespread in the eastern U.S. as show in this USDA map. Each red dot represents an infested county and the blue line is a federal quarantine zone.

Emerald ash borers lay eggs between bark layers and in bark crevices on ash trees. Upon hatching, the larvae burrow through the bark and begin to feed on the tree’s living parts: the phloem and sapwood. The larval feeding creates galleries, which cut off the movement of nutrients throughout the tree. Eventually, as the infestation grows, the tree’s system of nutrient transport ceases to function, and the tree slowly starves and dies.

EAB larvae create S-shaped “galleries” where they feed just beneath the bark of an infested ash tree. Use the slider bar to explore the damage in this tree.

Ash trees are important for so many reasons. They provide cool shade in the summer heat, provide habitat for wildlife, and are a valuable source of timber and firewood. When large ash die, however, they can pose serious safety risks. Dead and dying trees often bring down powerlines along the road and cause blackouts.

In addition, many trails, campgrounds, parking lots and playgrounds are surrounded by ash that, once infested, become hazard trees that require removal. Parks’ staff must constantly monitor public use areas for the presence of dying trees that may pose a risk to patrons.

The fight to conserve ash has been an uphill battle. While pesticide treatments work, they only last a year or two before reapplication is necessary and also are too expensive to use everywhere. Statewide quarantines and public education have helped slow the spread, but these little beetles can fly over a mile and lay up to 200 eggs in a lifetime, making containment difficult.

This chart shows the lifecycle of the EAB. (Photo credit – Cornell University)
State Parks staff at Jacques Cartier State Park peel back bark from an infested ash tree to reveal the EAB damage. (Photo credit- Aaron Hemminway, NYS Parks biologist)

You may be thinking “what can be done?!” Well with National Invasive Species Awareness Week coming May 17-23, an update from State Parks is timely.

Luckily, we may finally have a cost-effective, sustainable, and chemical-free solution to the problem. For the second year in a row, the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are partnering to release three species of predatory wasps – known ecologically as biological controls or parasitoids – to battle EAB in select state parks.

These tiny warriors are heavily studied little predators from the EAB’s home countries which prey only on these beetles and pose no risk to our native ecosystem. (And don’t worry. These wasps don’t sting and are no threat to people).

The females of these species attack ash borers in the early stages of their life cycle. These three wasps were chosen because they each have slightly different ways of tackling EAB, making them a more effective as a group.

Here, let’s meet our winged team.

Tetrastichus planipennisi

Tetrastichus planipennisi females lay eggs inside of EAB larvae, where the parasitoid larvae grow and eventually kill their host. They are used to protect smaller ash trees in particular, and they originate in China.


Oobius agrili

Oobius agrili lay eggs inside EAB eggs, where the parasitic wasp larvae hatch, grow, and kill the host EAB egg. These wasps are all female, so they reproduce asexually. They also originate in China.


Spathius galinae

Spathius galinae lay eggs outside of EAB larvae; when they hatch, Spathius feed on the EAB larvae, killing it. These wasps are best at helping larger ash trees, and are collected in the Russian Far East.


Last year, 11 State Parks received about 40,000 Tetrastichus wasps: Rockland Lake in Rockland County; Harriman and Bear Mountain in Rockland and Orange counties; Minekill in Schoharie County; Beaver Island and Buckhorn Island in Erie County; Clay Pit Ponds in Staten Island; Lakeside Beach in Orleans County; Golden Hill in Niagara County; Southwick Beach in Jefferson County; and Point Au Roche in Clinton County.

Starting this month, Jacques Cartier State Park in St. Lawrence County and Ganondagan State Historic Site in Ontario County will be added to that list. All three wasp species will be deployed, with an expected total of more than 50,000 wasps. All the wasps used are reared in a lab in Michigan, where they are shipped to New York and other states where USDA is coordinating its EAB biocontrol program.

For the wasps to be successful here, they need to find the beetle in its early life stages. In New York, the emerald ash borer generally begins to lay eggs in the summer; however, many larvae overwinter inside of ash trees, and are thus readily available as food for the parasitoids in the spring.

Parks staff introduces the wasps into infested ash trees through three methods:


  • Ash bolts are small sections of ash (think small ash logs slightly larger than cans of soup) that house mature parasitoid larvae. They are attached to infested ash trees using twine or zip ties. When the larvae mature, they leave the bolts and find EAB larvae to feed on within the ash stand.
Ash bolts are attached to infested trees with zip ties or twine, and are marked with flagging so they can be easily found. Please don’t disturb or tamper with the bolts if you come across them!

  • Plastic cups containing adult parasitoids arrive on-site ready for distribution. The cups simply need to be opened, inverted and tapped gently against the trunks of infested trees.
Adult parasitoids arrive in plastic cups, ready for release.
  • Oobinators are used less frequently and only for the delivery of Oobius agrili. They are small, plastic pill bottles with a screen over the open end that can be attached to trees with zip ties or twine. They contain a sheet of paper with parasitized EAB eggs. Once mature, Oobius will hatch and escape through the screen.
Oobinators are hung upside down, to allow mature parasitoids to escape. Photo credit: USDA

While out exploring NYS Parks, you may see these “ash bolts” or “Oobinators” attached to trees. They are often marked with flagging for easy identification. While it may be tempting to try to get a closer look at these woodland wasp homes, it is important to let the parasitoids grow and feed uninterrupted,  to give them the best possible chance of survival.

While parasitoid releases may be new to New York State Parks, USDA has been conducting releases throughout the country for several years. Subsequent studies indicate that that wasps are surviving and are feeding on the EAB.

Studies have also shown that the Tetrastichus wasps in particular can eliminate up to 85 percent of EAB larvae in ash saplings. (Duane et al., 2017)

These are promising results which suggest if parasitoid wasps can be reared in abundance, they may offer crucial protection to the next generation of ash trees. It is important to keep in mind, however, that success will not happen overnight. Wasps need to find enough EAB to build up their populations to sustainable levels and it takes time to see results, even if wasp populations are doing well. Parasitoids also will most likely not save most larger ash, but they can help manage EAB populations so smaller ash trees can have a chance grow and hopefully reproduce.

Parks is thrilled to partner with USDA in this important endeavor to protect our forests. You also can join in the effort by reporting emerald ash borer sightings or suspected damage to the iMapInvasives website or smartphone app. There is also a USDA online reporting form here.

Also, help stem the spread of EAB and other invasive forest pests by following state regulations that control the movement of untreated firewood, which can carry these invasive hitchhikers.

  • Untreated firewood may not be imported into NY from any other state or country.
  • Untreated firewood grown in NY may not be transported more than 50 miles (linear distance) from its source or origin unless it has been heat-treated to 71° C (160° F) for 75 minutes.
  • When transporting firewood, the following documentation is required:
    • If transporting untreated firewood cut for personal use (i.e. not for sale) you must fill out a Self-Issued Certificate of Origin (PDF).
    • If purchasing and transporting untreated firewood, it must have a receipt or label that identifies the firewood source. NOTE! Source is sometimes, but not always, the same as where it was purchased. Consumers need to use the source to determine how far the firewood may be transported.
    • If purchasing and transporting heat-treated firewood, it must have a receipt or label that says, “New York Approved Heat-Treated Firewood/Pest Free”. This is the producers’ declaration that the firewood meets New York’s heat-treatment requirements. Most “kiln-drying” processes meet the standard, but not all, so it is important to look for the appropriate label. Heat-treated firewood may be moved unrestricted.

Find out if your destination is within the 50-mile movement limit by using this interactive map from the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Finally, if you encounter evidence of biocontrol release sites while out on State Parks trails, know that you are in the presence of these wasp warriors, engaged in a battle to save our beloved ash trees.

Above, Parks staff hang ash bolts and record release data used by USDA to measure the effectiveness of the project to combat the Emerald Ash Borer.


Cover shot – Emerald Ash Borer (Original Artwork – Juliet Linzmeier, Student Conservation Association member with NYS Parks) All other photo credited to NYS Parks unless otherwise noted.

Post by Sarah Travalio, Terrestrial Invasive Species and Biocontrol Coordinator, New York State Parks


Here are other easy tips that can make a big difference in helping stop the spread of all invasives:

  1. Clean, drain, and dry your watercraft and gear thoroughly to stop the spread of aquatic organisms.
  2. Plant only non-invasive plants in your garden, or even better, plant native plants. You can use the New York Flora Atlas to check which plants are native to New York.
  3. Clean your boots or your bike tires at the trailhead after hitting the trail – seeds of invasive plants can get stuck on your boots, clothes, or tires. You don’t want invasives in your yard or your other favorite hiking spots.
  4. Get involved – volunteer to help protect your local natural areas, join your local PRISM (Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management) to stay informed, or become a citizen scientist by using iMapInvasives to report infestations of invasive species right from your smartphone.

Interested in taking a deep dive into research on the parasitoid battle against the EAB? Check out these scientific studies:

Jian J. Duan, Leah S. Bauer, Roy G. Van Driesche, Emerald ash borer biocontrol in ash saplings: The potential for early stage recovery of North American ash trees, Forest Ecology and Management, Volume 394, 2017, Pages 64-72, ISSN 0378-1127, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2017.03.024.

Duan, Jian J., Leah S. Bauer, Kristopher J. Abell, Michael D. Ulyshen, and Roy G. Van Driesche. “Population dynamics of an invasive forest insect and associated natural enemies in the aftermath of invasion: implications for biological control.” Journal of Applied Ecology 52, no. 5 (2015): 1246-1254. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.12485

Jian J Duan, Roy G Van Driesche, Ryan S Crandall, Jonathan M Schmude, Claire E Rutledge, Benjamin H Slager, Juli R Gould, Joseph S Elkinton, Establishment and Early Impact of Spathius galinae (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) on Emerald Ash Borer (Coleoptera: Buprestidae) in the Northeastern United States, Journal of Economic Entomology, Volume 112, Issue 5, October 2019, Pages 2121–2130, https://doi.org/10.1093/jee/toz159


The official blog for the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation

%d bloggers like this: