Environmental groups join USDA to recognize August as Tree Check Month, urging public to look for the signs of the Asian longhorned beetle
The backyard barbecue. A hike in the woods. Camping or fishing in the wilderness. Even a stroll in the neighborhood. These are all activities that can make a difference in preserving the great outdoors, if you can spare a few extra minutes to take a closer look at the surrounding trees, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
USDA APHIS was joined at a news conference in Washington, D.C., Monday by the U.S. Forest Service, the Nature Conservancy, and American Forests in urging the public to join the battle against a devastating invasive pest, and tree killer, the Asian longhorned beetle.
"Unfortunately once the ALB infests a tree, the tree must be removed," said Scott Pfister, director for pest management of USDA APHIS. "Early detection is crucial in the fight against this invasive pest. The sooner an infestation is reported, the sooner efforts can be made to quickly contain and isolate an area from future destruction."
The Asian longhorned beetle was first discovered in the U.S. in 1996, after having arrived here probably inside wood packing material from Asia. The insect has no known natural predators and it threatens recreational areas, forests and suburban and urban shade trees. The beetle bores through the tissues that carry water and nutrients throughout the tree, which causes the tree to starve, weaken and eventually die. Once a tree is infested, it must be removed. It has caused tens of thousands of trees to be destroyed in New Jersey, Ohio, Massachusetts, New York and Illinois.
"The beetle attacks 13 genera of trees, but its greatest impacts may be on maple trees," said Dr. Robert Rabaglia of the U.S. Forest Service. "The economic and ecological health of the forests in the northeast is threatened by this beetle. Maples grace our urban forests, are prized for their colorful fall foliage and maple syrup projects, and are a prominent component of the northern forests that range from southeastern Canada, through New England to the Great Lakes."
Adult beetles are most active during the summer and early fall. They 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 1.5 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
In addition to looking for the beetle, you can search for signs of infestation, including:
• Dime-sized (1/4-inch or larger), perfectly round exit holes in the tree
• Oval depressions on the bark where the eggs are laid
• Sawdust-like materials, called frass, on the ground and the branches
• Sap seeping from wounds in the tree
"The ALB is generally spread by the movement of infested firewood," said Faith Campbell, senior policy representative of The Nature Conservancy. "Please be aware of the risks of transporting firewood. Buy it at your destination and only purchase local firewood. Don't take it back home with you."
This year, New Jersey became the second state to declare eradication from the beetle. ALB was successfully eradicated from Illinois in 2008. In New York, Manhattan, Staten Island and Islip are now free of the ALB. An area is declared free of the ALB after all the infested trees are eliminated and surveys are negative for active signs of beetle activity or the presence of the beetle.
"Trees are a critical part of our ecosystem," said Lea Sloan, vice president of communications at American Forests. "And people like you are critical members of the citizen scientist team that can make an essential difference. Don't wait until it's too late and that beautiful hiking path or favorite camping spot is closed to visitors because of a quarantine. Help us stop the spread of this invasive pest."
The beetle is harmless to people and pets. If you think you've found an Asian longhorned beetle or signs of infestation, always record the area where the specimen or damage was found. If possible, capture the insect you think is the beetle, place it in a jar and freeze it - this will preserve the insect for easy identification. Visit www.asianlonghornedbeetle.com for more information.
"The value of trees within our communities is immeasurable, and the risk of devastation by the Asian longhorn beetle is profound," said Woodrow Nelson from the Arbor Day Foundation. "Yet we've learned that the threat can be thwarted. We've learned that this pest can and has been eliminated in many areas. The success will be because of caring people helping where they live."
USDA has made a concerted effort to deliver results for the American people, even as USDA implements sequestration - the across-the-board budget reductions mandated under terms of the Budget Control Act. USDA has already undertaken historic efforts since 2009 to save more than $828 million in taxpayer funds through targeted, common-sense budget reductions. These reductions have put USDA in a better position to carry out its mission, while implementing sequester budget reductions in a fair manner that causes as little disruption as possible.