There's a new monster on our shores and it has a taste for hardwood trees. While it's only been spotted in five states, all readers who care about trees should be concerned about the Asian Longhorn Beetle. August is tree check month and while your state may not have reported the pest, it's worth taking the time to look for it in your area.
"If you have trees in any state in the United States, you should be concerned with this pest," says Rhonda Santos, public information officer for USDA's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service. "There is no cure for the ALB, once a tree is infested it must be removed to stop the pest."
Five states have been hit by this bug, according to USDA: New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Illinois and Ohio. But anyone reading this should be concerned. The pest made it from Asia to the United States in packing material.
UGLY TROUBLE: The Asian Longhorned Beetle is a tree killer, and the sooner it's found the sooner it can be eradicated. The only way to control it is to cut down the trees, but early detection can preserve a forest. August is tree check month for ALB.
There is hope. Illinois was able to eradicate ALB in 2008, and in March of this year, New Jersey cleared itself of the pest. And progress is being made in New York, Santos says. "We can beat this insect, eradication is possible, and peoples' efforts are not in vain. That's not the case with a lot of other invasive pests."
Stopping the pest, however, takes drastic measures. "Early detection is important," Santos says. "We remove the infested trees."
She notes that in Massachusetts, the infestation went on for at least 12 years before anyone noticed. But once found, more than 30,000 trees were removed. Progress is being made on the problem in that state.
Popping up in Ohio
ALB has made its way to Ohio. It can travel in firewood great distances, which means in a lot of cases, shopping local makes a difference. "We're not completely sure how ALB got into Ohio, but we're doing the traceback work to find out," Santos says. "Right now we believe that goods shipped directly from China - such as truck parts in pallets - might have been infested."
USDA's Santos explains that since 2006 fumigation and treatment of packing material has been an important border protection program.
The bug is all over Asia, so any wood-based items coming into this country are suspect already. But the pest can be missed. Once here, however, efforts on the part of landowners with trees are gaining importance. And since the bug can be moved so easily in wood, farmers with timber should be on the lookout.
Checking for signs
So in August, which USDA-APHIS officially calls Tree Check Month for ALB, look for these sights:
* dime-sized exit holes in trees, which Santos says will be perfectly round.
* shallow scars in bark.
* sawdust-like material on the ground or tree branches.
* Dead branches.
* The beetle - and as you can see from the picture, it's long antennae and spotted appearance make this critter easy to spot.
Adult beetles are most active in the summer and early fall, hence August as a time for spotting the pest. According to an APHIS fact sheet you can see the bugs throughout the summer on tree trunks and branches, walls, outdoor furniture and on sidewalks. The truth is that once a tree is infested the only treatment is removal, before ALB spreads to others. Since all states are susceptible, tree checks are important.
Santos explains that the adult bug is killed by good hard frost, but the can survive over-winter. Each ALB female can lay up to 100 eggs in its lifetime. The larva can be as large as your pinky finger and they chew and feed in the tree. The adult insect is up to 1.5-inches long too. It's a big one with its long antennae.
And the list of trees susceptible to this pest is long including all types of ash, birch, elm, maple, poplar, willow and more. You can learn more by visiting www.asianlonghornedbeetle.com