August Is Tree Check Month: A Devastating Pest Could Change the Way You View the Great Outdoors
It is potentially a nightmare environmental and economic scenario. A devastating invasive pest with no known natural predators threatens recreational areas, forests, and suburban and urban shade trees. The recreation, timber, nursery, and maple syrup industries alone could suffer severe losses. Once a tree is infested, it must be removed.
The Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) has led to the loss of more than 130,000 trees in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Illinois since it was first discovered in the United States in 1996, after having arrived here probably inside wood-packing material from Asia.
"It truly has the potential to be a landscape-altering pest," says Robyn Rose, of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). "The beetle is not limited to attacking just one certain geographic region in this country. It attacks a wide variety of hardwoods, which makes it a threat to every state."
USDA is urging the public to look for signs of the ALB in August, a peak time for emergence of the beetle. Early detection is crucial to limiting the spread of the invasive pest. In Worcester County, Massachusetts, an infestation went undetected for at least 10 years, and after five years of eradication efforts and counting, the infestation has resulted in the loss of over 34,000 trees.
The Asian longhorned beetle bores through the tissues that carry water and nutrients throughout the tree, which causes the tree to starve, weaken, and eventually die. ALB larvae burrow deep into the heartwood of trees, and cannot be reached by insecticide treatments.
"During August, we're asking folks to give us 10 minutes," says the USDA's Robyn Rose. "Take a close look at the trees in your backyard or favorite hiking or camping destination. The beetle is somewhat menacing-looking, but it is harmless to humans and pets. It can be seen on trees, branches, walls, outdoor furniture, cars, and sidewalks and caught in pool filters."
Signs of damage from the ALB include:
- Dime-sized (one-fourth inch or larger), perfectly round exit holes in the tree
- Oval depressions on the bark where the eggs are laid
- Sawdust-like material, called frass, on the ground and the branches
- Sap seeping from wounds in the tree
"If you think you've spotted the ALB or signs of its damage, make use of your mobile device and take a picture," Rose notes. "Visit asianlonghornedbeetle.com for more information or to report your findings."
The ALB can be unknowingly spread by the movement of infested firewood. USDA officials recommend that you buy and burn firewood at your destination and purchase it locally.
USDA and its state and local partners successfully eradicated the Asian longhorned beetle from Illinois in 2008, from New Jersey in 2013, from the New York City boroughs of Manhattan and Staten Island in 2013 as well as the town of Islip in 2011, and this year from an area within the city of Boston.
SOURCE USDA APHIS