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BAD NEWS ON BUGS
- by E. A. Zimmerman
 

Connecticut is in the midst of a Bad Bug News Trifecta.  Asian Longhorned Beetles are at our borders, mosquito populations are exploding, and about half of the state’s beehives are infected with a potentially deadly bacteria. 

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

Asian Longhorned Beetles threaten thousands of acres of Connecticut forests, especially those with stands of maple, birch, elm and willow.  These non-native insects have no natural enemies.  No pesticides effectively control them.  “Once a tree is attacked by the beetle, the only remedy is to cut it down,” said Governor Rell, who declared August as Asian Longhorned Beetle Awareness Month.

This pest “has the potential for more damage than infestations by gypsy moths, Dutch elm disease and chestnut blight combined," said Rell.  Sixty percent of Connecticut is covered by forests that support both recreation and a half-billion dollar forest product industry.  This makes the beetle, which was first found in New York City in 1996, a serious threat to our economy.  An infestation in nearby Worcester MA has already destroyed 24,000 trees. The beetle has not yet been seen in Connecticut.  The most important thing you can do to prevent it from reaching us is this: Do not bring firewood from other states into Connecticut.  You can also be on the lookout for the beetle when you are out in your yard or in the forest. 

***

Heavy rainfall and humidity for months on end have created a perfect storm for hoards of mosquitoes.  ”We're trapping 8,000 mosquitoes a day,” noted Theodore Andreadis, Connecticut's chief medical entomologist.  “Normally we trap a couple of thousand.”   The steep decline in bat populations does not help, although mosquitoes probably only make up about 4 percent of a bat’s diet.
The bite of an infected mosquito can transmit West Nile and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) viruses to people and pets. Last year, there were eight confirmed cases of West Nile virus in Connecticut residents.  There were no EEE cases in CT, but there were some in abutting states. Both viruses can cause serious illness.  EEE is more often fatal.  

“If you're out, especially at dusk, you need to wear repellent,” said Andreadis. Some communities like Stonington, Old Lyme, and Groton Long Point are preemptively using larvicide at breeding sites to try to keep mosquito numbers in check.  Larvicide briquettes can be used by private homeowners in ponds, catch basins or other problem areas.   Dog owners should make sure their pets are up to date on heartworm medication.  If you own a horse, vaccinations against both West Nile and EEE are recommended.

***

American foulbrood, a bacteria that kills honeybee larvae, has been found in about half of Connecticut’s registered honeybee hives.  Ten percent of the hives have a serious level of infection, according to scientists at the CT Agricultural Experiment Station.  Infections have been confirmed in Cheshire, Colchester, Durham, Lebanon, Middlefield, Middletown, Norwalk, Old Lyme, and Portland.  It has been found in CT every year since 1997, but it is more widespread than usual this year.  The bacteria can spread between apiaries when adult bees drift from an infected hive, or by equipment that has come into contact with an infected hive, said Magnarelli.

Foulbrood can wipe out an entire bee colony in a matter of weeks.  We depend on bees to pollinate food crops like fruit and flowering vegetables.  Without honeybees, yields will be much lower.   There is only one approved antibiotic that can be used to fight foulbrood. Infested colonies should be destroyed by burning.   Beekeepers with questions can call Magnarelli at 203.974.8466 or Carol Lemmon, Deputy State Entomologist, at 203.974.474.

 

For more information on the Asian Longhorned Beetle:

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Originally published in the Villager newspapers on August 14, 2009

 
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