Photo: Penn State
An especially destructive species of beetle has been spotted near Indiana, and today marks the beginning of Asian Longhorned Beetle Awareness Week in the state.
The insect attacks 13 types of trees and all of their variations. It has a special affinity for maple.
Rhonda Santos, public information officer with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said the Asian Longhorned Beetle is one of the most devastating insects ever to attack trees in the United States.
An infestation in central Massachusetts, for example, led to the loss of over 30,000 trees.
“Females will lay an egg just under the bark of the tree, and in about two weeks that egg turns into a larva. The larva continues to tunnel and feed inside the tree before it turns into a pupa, and as an adult chews its way out,” Santos said.
This process, repeated hundreds or thousands of times if left undetected, leaves a dime-sized hole in the side of a tree.
First detected in Brooklyn, New York in 1996, Santos said the Asian Longhorned Beetle likely arrived in the mid 1980’s through infested wood packing material like pallets and crates.
New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Ohio have fought infestations since. Only Illinois and New Jersey have declared total eradication.
The most common way to fight infestation is to simply identify and remove infested trees – Santos said at that point it’s too late to save them. And she said the public has been extremely helpful in reporting signs of the insect.
“Pretty much all of the infestations have been reported by the public,” Santos said. “People have noticed either something wrong with their trees, such as the exit holes, or noticed the insect itself.”
The Asian Longhorned Beetle is large, at about an inch and a half long. It’s jet black with random white spots, and has very long antennae.
Santos said the USDA follows up on every report, just to make sure, because early detection is crucial.