Prevent Asian Longhorn Beetle Spread

Ohio woodlands face the serious threat from invasive beetle. Here's what you can do to help prevent further devastation.

Published on: Jul 1, 2013

In 2011 Ohio became the fifth U.S. state affected by the Asian longhorned beetle when an infestation was found in Tate Township in Clermont County, located about 25 miles east of Cincinnati. Since its detection, two additional areas in Clermont County have reported infested trees. These recent infestations are linked to the movement of firewood in 2010, before regulations for the beetle restricting the movement of firewood and other host tree material were put in place. In one case, adult beetles emerged from one pile of firewood which led to the infestation of 46 surrounding trees on two different private properties.

The Asian longhorned beetle was first discovered in the U.S. in 1996, likely arriving here unknowingly inside wood packing material from Asia. The insect has no known natural predators and it threatens recreational areas, forests, and suburban and urban shade trees. The beetle bores through the tissues that carry water and nutrients throughout the tree, which causes the tree to starve, weaken and eventually die. Once a tree is infested, it must be removed. It has caused the loss of over 80,000 trees in Ohio, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Illinois.

Prevent Asian Longhorn Beetle Spread
Prevent Asian Longhorn Beetle Spread

"If the beetle is allowed to spread, it could have disastrous implications on various industries, says Rhonda Santos with USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Since the beetle attacks 13 genera of trees, including birch, maple, elm, and yes, the buckeye, the timber, nursery, recreation and maple syrup industries could suffer severe losses.

"In my role with USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, I have seen the devastation caused by the Asian longhorned beetle," says Santos. This invasive pest has led to the removal of more than 30,000 trees in central Massachusetts alone, and over 9,000 trees in Ohio. When the goal is to protect our natural resources, the concept of removing trees is a difficult one. But the threat from this invasive pest is far too severe to do nothing.

How can you help? Take 10 minutes and look at your trees. The first line of defense is you. USDA has designated August as Tree Check Month. Adult beetles are most active during the summer and early fall. Throughout the summer, they can be seen on tree trunks and branches, walls, outdoor furniture, cars, and sidewalks.

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It only takes a few minutes to check your trees for the beetle and any signs of damage it causes:

1. Dime-sized (1/4" or larger), perfectly round exit holes

2. Shallow scars in bark where the eggs are laid

3. Sawdust-like materials, called frass, on the ground and the branches

4. Dead branches

Although the beetle may look menacing, it is harmless to people. The ALB is generally 1 to 1.5 inches in length, have six legs, and a shiny, jet-black body with random white spots.

"Since the Asian longhorned beetle can be found in any state, millions of acres of our nation's hardwoods — including national forests, state parks, and neighborhood trees — are at risk," Santos says. "The beetle can be unknowingly spread by the movement of infested firewood.  Firewood might look harmless, but it's what you can't see that is most concerning."

Here are some simple steps you can take to avoid moving invasive pests in firewood:

  • Buy it at your destination and only purchase local firewood.
  • Ask questions about the firewood you purchase—where did it come from?
  • When you do purchase firewood at your destination, burn it all—don't take it back home with you.

Early detection is crucial in stopping the spread of the pest, and you play an important role in this effort. This year, New Jersey became the second state to declare eradication from the beetle. ALB was successfully eradicated from Illinois in 2008. In New York, Manhattan, Staten Island and Islip are now free of the ALB.  An area is declared free of the ALB after all the infested trees are eliminated and surveys are negative for active signs of beetle activity or the presence of the beetle.

If you see any sign or symptom of an Asian longhorned beetle infestation, report it immediately. Visit www.Asianlonghornedbeetle.com to report a sighting or for more information, or call the toll free hotline at 1-866-702-9938.