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Be on the lookout for Asian Longhorn Beetle - the latest threat to our forests

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- by Wayne Paquette, owner  Quackin’ Grass Nursery
16 Laurel Hill Road Brooklyn, CT 06234 | 860.779.1732
asian long horned beetle

The Asian Longhorned Beetle is about ¾ to 1.5 inches long, and glossy black with white spots on its back.  It is sometimes confused with the native Whitespotted Sawyer beetle, which lacks the distinctive white bands on the antennae. Contact the CT Agricultural Experiment Station at 203.974.8485 immediately if you suspect you have seen this serious pest.    Good quality photographs can be sent to CAES.StateEntomologist@po.state.ct.us. Wikimedia Commons photo

The Asian Longhorn Beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis) was recently found in Worcester, Massachusetts. A resident happened upon a large black and white beetle boring into a tree and contacted authorities. No one can say how long it’s been in the area nor how many individuals may be out there. But experts suspect that it could be present and breeding in a nearby forest.

ALB is a serious threat to hardwood trees. Known hosts include the following maples: Boxelder, Sugar, Red, Norway and Silver. Other known victims include Alders, Birches, Elms, Horse Chestnuts, Willows and Poplars. Ash, Hickory, Oak, Dogwood as well as ornamental Chinese and Japanese Maples, not mentioned, might also be possible hosts as we do not know with accuracy a complete list of target trees at this time.

An ALB's body is at least one inch long with a pair of antennae that extend forward and arc away from the head. A characteristic feature is each antenna alternates in black and white segments. Warning signs include oval to rounded pits in tree bark where eggs are deposited. As larva hatch and bore into the tree, sap oozes from holes. An accumulation of sawdust caught in a branch crotch or at the base of the tree may indicate infestation. Perfectly round holes, two-fifths of an inch or larger can indicate emergence of adult beetles. Adults are generally seen between the months of July and October.

Similar in look, native White-spotted Sawyer beetle with less white on a slightly narrower bronzy-black body has black antennae in males, black antennae banded with dull gray in females. Fallen conifers attract White-spotted Sawyer beetles. Another look alike, Cottonwood Borers, is drawn to Cottonwood Trees, and sport black antennae. They are a greater problem and more prominent in the south. Locust Borers which attack only locust trees (Robinia) and Honey Locust (Gleditsia), look somewhat like the ALB but grow only to about three-quarters inch long, exhibit a more black and white zebra patterning on the body, have black antennae and reddish-black legs. For the sake of accuracy I strongly recommend viewing close-up photographs at http://www.na.fs.fed.us/fhp/alb/

ALB does not move about readily or quickly by its own volition. An inadvertent hitch hiker, it easily stows away on firewood, wooden furniture and packing crates. Likely, individuals upon and within wooden pallets and perhaps even wooden furniture arriving from Asia, transported on cargo vessels to North American ports is the manner in which this menace found its way here. Once having reached U. S. ports cargo was then disseminated to various purchasers around the country.

As Worcester is so close to the Connecticut border, ALB is of great concern to all of us. Early detection is the best way to get a handle on and eradicate ALB. The earlier the better, before it has had a chance to move out in concentric circles from the point of origin. Quarantines are costly and difficult. One way to protect yourself and your neighbors from infestation is when purchasing firewood, especially if untreated, buy from local sources. Any wood that might arrive from the Worcester area should be suspect.

Outbreaks have occurred on western Long Island, overlapping into Brooklyn, New York and in New Jersey also. A recent outbreak near Chicago, Illinois required the destruction of nearly 2,000 trees over the course of 10 years in order to contain and finally eradicate the problem. It was with great and expensive effort that the beetle was finally destroyed. If it had been found sooner fewer trees would had been purposely killed to corral this black and white marauder.  

If you should spot this insect pest please attempt capture. Don’t be squeamish! Then contact either the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) at (203) 974-8474 or (203) 974-8485. You may also report sightings to Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) at the U. S. Department of Agriculture. Their website is http://www.aphis.usda.gov/

With Sugar Maples on the decline in southern New England, Ash trees in trouble, our lovely native Flowering Dogwoods which have all but disappeared from the wild, wooly adelgid having decimated beloved Hemlock populations it is of great concern that we remain vigilant. We can ill afford such a devastating equal opportunity tree killer in our woodlands, tree plantations, shelter belts, highway meridians and backyards. “Unintended Consequences”, articles recently written by Villager columnist Bet Zimmerman fit this scenario all too well. Yes, unintended consequences abound.


References and More Information:Quackin' Grass Nursery, Brooklyn CT


Originally published in the Villager Newspapers, August 2008,
TPS#28 The Potting Shed Special Edition: Asian Longhorn Beetle Alert


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