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Asian Longhorn Beetle

Summary: The Asian Longhorn Beetle has quickly become a significant threat to our commercial forests and city treescapes. It will require a worldwide effort of nations to keep these insects from devastating our woodlands.

It's not quite the invasion we envisioned, but it's an invasion, nonetheless. The borders of the United States have been breached by an invading force originating in China and it is apparently too late to call out the Marines and the National Guard.  The Asian Longhorn Beetle has made it to our shores via packing crates and wooden pallets and now they have established themselves as an unwanted guest, here to dine on our most valued trees. The spread of this invasive beetle is helped along via the shipments of invested lumber, logs and firewood.

Identification of the adult ALB is easy. They are quite large with bodies measuring up to one and one-half inches, plus add another four inches for their black and white banded antennae. That's half a foot long, so spotting them is not the issue. Their bodies are shiny black and have irregular white spots. To make matters worse, they are capable of flying short distances. The Asian Longhorn Beetle larvae can grow over two inches long, is off-white, but is rarely seen during its one to three year stay inside the affected tree.

The larvae of these large beetles do equally large damage to some of our most valued trees by boring deep into the tree to feed on its water and food œveins. Eventually, the tree dies from being deprived of its nutrients. The mature beetles exit the tree from holes that can measure up to ¾ in diameter. Their exodus takes place between May and October and start the process all over again.

Potentially, the Asian Longhorn Beetle could cause millions of dollars in damages to commercial forests. Thousands upon thousands of trees have had to be cut down and destroyed already. Many states in the affected areas have enacted strict rules against transporting firewood more than fifty miles from its origination point. New York, for example, prohibits importing firewood into the state unless it has been heat-treated to eliminate invasive insect species. One New York official said the environmental threat to our forests presented by insects like the Asian Longhorn Beetle is like "catastrophic wildfires in slow-motion."

Forestry agencies and university research departments are on high alert watching for signs of the Asian Longhorn Beetle, also known as œALB. When discovered, the only current defense is to cut down the infested tree and destroy the wood. The ALB's favorite trees are maple, but this insect will also go after willows, elm, black locust and horse chestnuts. There is ongoing research to find ways to control the ALB including the application of microbial insecticides, the introduction of nematodes to specifically target the larval or pupal stages of the ALB, and trying to pinpoint natural fly or wasp predators.

Once again, Mother Nature has challenged us to defend and protect our natural resources. Hopefully, we are up to the task at hand.

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