August: Time to look for beetles

Staff report

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A stroll in the park. The backyard barbeque. Hiking in the woods. Dusting off the tree swing.

Summer outdoor activities offer a prime opportunity to help protect the nation’s hardwoods from a potentially landscape-altering pest, the Asian longhorned beetle (ALB).

In Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, New Jersey and New York, more than 130,000 trees have been lost due to this invasive pest.

“Early detection is critical to stopping the spread of the ALB,” said Rhonda Santos, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. “The good news is that the public plays an important role in our efforts to eradicate the pest. It only takes a few minutes to look for the signs of the ALB.”

August is a time of peak emergence for the Asian longhorned beetle, which was first discovered in the U.S. in 1996, likely arriving here unknowingly inside wood packing material from Asia. With no natural predators, it threatens recreational areas, forests, and suburban and urban shade trees. All states are at risk because the beetle attacks 12 genera of trees, including birch, maple and elm. If ALB were to become established in the United States, it could have a severe impact on the timber, maple syrup, tree nursery, and tourism industries, as well as the environment. In addition, public spaces, yards, and neighborhoods would take decades to recover.

The states that are currently fighting an ALB infestation — Massachusetts, New York and Ohio — and those states bordering an infestation are at a higher risk as the beetle can be unknowingly moved inside tree debris or firewood, thus starting an infestation in a new area. USDA officials caution people to buy and burn firewood at their destinatios and purchase it locally.

The ALB may look menacing, but it is harmless to people and pets. It can be seen on trees, branches, walls, outdoor furniture, cars, and sidewalks and caught in pool filters. With these unique characteristics, the beetle can be easy to see:

  • 1 to 1 1/2 inches in length
  • Long antennae banded in black and white (longer than the insect’s body)
  • Shiny, jet black body with random white spots
  • Six legs
  • Legs may appear bluish in color

“Signs of damage include dime-sized, perfectly round exit holes in the tree,” said Santos. “Take a second look at trees during your summer activities. Other evidence of the beetle includes oval depressions where the eggs are laid, sap seeping from these wounds, and sawdust-like material on the ground and branches.”

Visit to report any evidence of the ALB.

Staff report

This article was submitted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

This article was submitted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.