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Bust this bug: Asian longhorned beetle poses new threat to state’s forests
Mahoning County Maple syrup producer Dave Hively said he had hoped it wouldn’t happen, “but I knew we were sitting on a time bomb.”
In June, the invasive Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) was discovered in Ohio’s Clermont County, threatening the state’s hardwood forests and maple syrup businesses such as Hively’s. The bug has the potential to eat away more than $2.5 billion in standing timber as well as Ohio’s $5 billion nursery industry that employs nearly 240,000 people, according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA).
“God forbid that it does, but if it ever gets a hold it will be devastating,” Hively said.
The beetle is believed to have made its way to Ohio concealed in solid wood packing material used to transport goods from overseas. ALB was first detected in the United States in 1996 in Brooklyn, NY and Ohio is the fifth state to detect the destructive ALB, according to ODA.
Experts say early detection will be key to eradicating the bug. A quarantine area also has been established where the bug was discovered to prevent its spread through the movement of firewood and other materials.
According to the USDA website www.beetlebusters.info, the Asian longhorned beetle spends most of its life as a larva inside a hardwood tree. The adult female chews a depression or egg site into the bark and lays a single egg beneath the bark. Egg sites are visible on the bark of the tree. They can be oval or round in shape or small slits depending on the tree species and thickness of the bark. With a lifespan of 14-66 days, a female beetle can lay 30-60 eggs in her lifetime.
When the larva emerges from the egg, it initially feeds on the tree’s living tissue directly beneath the bark. The mature larva then moves deep into the tree and feeds on the woody tissue. This feeding and burrowing causes the tree to weaken and eventually die. The larva becomes a pupa inside the tree.
About one year after the egg was laid, the adult beetle breaks out of its pupal casing and chews its way out of the tree, creating perfectly round exit holes that are about 3/8 inch in diameter. Adult beetles emerge in July and August. They feed on leaves and small twigs and then mate, continuing the life cycle with the female beetles laying more eggs in the tree. Female beetles tend to lay eggs on the same tree every year until the tree dies.
Hively said he’s optimistic that state and federal agencies will be able to stop the bug’s spread.
“The good thing is they are jumping on it with a vengeance,” he said. “The big thing is if anyone has any suspicion is get the bug and contact the (authorities).”
Residents can report suspected Asian longhorned beetles by calling 1-855-252-6450.
What to Look For
- 1 to 1½ inches in length
- Long antennae banded in black and white (longer than the insect’s body)
- Shiny, jet black body with distinctive white spots
- Six legs
- May have blue color on feet
Trees at risk
- European mountain ash
- Horse chestnut
- London plane tree