The Asian Long-horned Beetle The Asian long-horned beetle is among the many non-native species in America. The seemingly harmless insect is no threat to humans or animals, but hardwood trees. Examples of this can be found in Beijing where it has been nicknamed "the forest fire without smoke" and Brooklyn, New York where it has left trees looking like mere skeletons. The recent infestation has caused such extensive damage that extreme measures are being taken to impede further immigration and destruction.
Asian long-horned beetles are native to areas including China, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan and other surrounding territories. At one time they caused only slight harm when located in its native habitat. These are believed to be natural forests located in northern China. The beetle's natural enemies regulated its populations up until approximately thirty years ago. The expansion of trade in the provinces triggered change in their environment and thus spread to other regions.
The Asian long-horned beetle is around 1.5 inches long, with white spots covering their back, long feet, and distinct antennae lined with black and white stripes. They somewhat resemble cockroaches. The beetles, unlike most others, live off of not dead or dying trees, but live and healthy ones.
The Asian long-horned beetle was first introduced to the United States in 1996 when they showed up unexpectedly in Brooklyn. With the increase in trade larvae stowed away in the wood that was made into wooden packing crates in China and Hong Kong and unknowingly shipped to America. It is believed to have been stored in untreated wood, thus being able to survive the journey. It was then discovered in Chicago and New York's Central Park.
Asian long-horned beetles have been very destructive to many hardwood species in America. It's favorite trees to invest are maples and horse chestnuts; however, the Asian long-horned beetles readily make homes in the yellow-poplars, willows, elms, mulberries, black locusts and several fruit trees including pear and plum (Meyer 2).
The Asian long-horned beetles destroy these trees by chewing holes into the trunks. The process starts with a female beetle that chews cavities into the smooth bark laying one egg in each cavity, on average each adult female will lay between twenty-five and thirty eggs. When these eggs hatch into larva, they bore holes into the inner bark. In the process of doing so, the beetles destroy the tubes in which necessary water and nutrients are carried. Thus, killing the section of the tree that is now cut off. When the larva finally reach the adult stage, they chew their way out of the tree, leaving behind a large, round hole, the only sure sign that the beetle had invested the tree (http://sciencebulletins.amnh.org 5).
The Asian long-horned beetle has not only killed thousands of trees, it has also damaged the American economy. In 1986, timber became the most important agricultural crop in the United States. The USDA estimates that this beetle could cause as much as 138 billion dollars of damage to the US economy, if their population is not eliminated (Meyer 3).
Thus far, the only management plan America has to offer is new rules of shipping with wooden packing materials. It is now required that all solid wood packages entering the United States from China must be heat treated, fumigated of treated with preservatives. However, this does not change the fact that a great deal on these insects are already on American soil. Fumigation has proven to be a waste of time, for the beetles spend too much of the time in the tree for the process to be beneficial. The only "treatment" comes to little to-late to actually save the trees, for there is no way to identify a tree as being infected until is has already begun to die. The infected trees are cut down, chipped and burned. In most cases trees in the surrounding area of this confirmed infection are must also go through this process in order to prevent the further spread of the attacks by the Asian long-horned beetle (Meyer 3).
Currently, the USDA, in association with many private organizations, has developed a program aimed at gathering technology to better detect, control and eradicate the Asian long-horned beetles from North America. There has also been research looking for pathogens, predators and parasitoids to combat the Asian long-horned beetles (Meyer 5).
The Asian long-horned beetle has proven to be a nuisance in both its native land, and here in America. Destroying trees and costing the country billions of dollars in lost lumber, as well as, billions more on trying to develop a system that would rid the country of this pest.