Invasive Beetle Is a Tree Killer

The beetle has distinctive markings that are easy to recognize. USDA

It's August. Have you checked your trees for invasive and deadly pests?

The United States Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS,) is reminding people that August is Tree Check Month, and this year it is particularly crucial to check for drill-like holes made by the Asian longhorned beetle (ALB).

The beetle, which has a long antennae with black and white bands, a 1-to-1.5-inch-long, shiny, jet-black body with white spots, and six legs with blue-colored feet, has killed 23,753 trees in Kings, Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties to date.

There are also infestations in Clermont County, Ohio, and Worcester County, Mass., and the potential for the beetle to destroy millions of acres of America's hardwoods, including maple, birch, elm, willow, ash, and poplar trees.

The beetle is believed to have come from wooden packing material used on cargo ships from China, and since it was first detected in Brooklyn in 1996 it has led to the loss of more than 160,000 trees.

"Trees infested by the beetle weaken and die over time and are more likely to fall or lose branches during high winds and storms," Josie Ryan, APHIS's national operations manager for the Asian longhorned beetle eradication program, said in a press release. "Since we're in hurricane season, it's wise to remove trees sooner than later. It's possible to get rid of this destructive pest, but we need the public's help to do so."

The beetle is believed to have been eradicated in Illinois, New Jersey, Manhattan, Staten Island, Islip, and Boston. Taking the time to check for it is critical to catching it during the early stages of infestation. The Department of Agriculture advises against moving firewood from quarantined areas because the beetle can then be moved to new locations.

Typical signs of infestation include round holes, no bigger than the size of a dime, in tree trunks and branches, shallow oval scars in the bark, sawdust-like material, called frass, on the ground around the tree, or dead branches falling from an otherwise healthy-looking tree.

"If you love trees, now is the time to take 10 minutes and go outside and look for the signs of this invasive pest," Ms. Ryan said.

Those who see signs of the beetle have been asked to make note of when and where it was found and to try to take a photo. If possible, try to capture the insect by placing it in a container and freezing it, which will preserve it for easier identification. Findings can be reported to 866-702-9938 via an online form at AsianLonghornedBeetle.com.

More information about the beetle and ways to keep it from spreading can also be found on the website and at hungrypests.com.