A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Art Lander’s Outdoors: Asian long-horned beetle threatens maple trees, other hardwoods in Kentucky

An Asian insect pest, which threatens maple trees and other hardwoods in North America, has been found on Kentucky’s doorstep.

Multiple infestations of the Asian Long-Horned Beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis) were found beginning in 2012 in southern Ohio’s Clermont County, just east of Cincinnati.

An Asian insect pest, the Asian Long-Horned Beetle, which threatens maple trees and other hardwoods in North America, has been found on Kentucky’s doorstep — in southern Ohio’s Clermont County, just east of Cincinnati. (Photo provided)

While there have been no reports of infestations in the Kentucky counties to the south, just across the Ohio River, state forestry officials are on alert. “We’re hoping this is one (insect pest) that we don’t have to deal with,” said Abe Nielsen, Forest Health Specialist with the Kentucky Division of Forestry. “It’s important that landowners are educated about the beetle so they can be on the lookout for signs of infestation.”

Federal and state forestry officials have been effective in keeping the infestations from expanding, but there is still a lot of active management going on in southern Ohio.

“With more than $2.5 billion in standing maple timber and a $5 billion dollar nursery industry that employs nearly 240,000 people, it is vital we do all we can to keep this tree-killing pest from spreading across Ohio,” said David Daniels, director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

On March 15 the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Ohio Department of Agriculture announced that the Asian Long-Horned Beetle (ALB) had been eradicated from one area in Clermont County, Stonelick Township.

The localized infestation was contained by the removal of infested trees, inspection surveys of 255,430 host trees, and the chemical treatment of 8,788 high-risk host trees.

A quarantine area of about 60 square miles is still in effect in southern Ohio, including all of East Fork State Park and Tate Township, and portions of Williamsburg and Monroe Townships.

The movement of hardwood logs, firewood, stumps, roots and branches within these regulated areas is prohibited.

ALB was first discovered in the U.S. in 1996 in Brooklyn, N.Y., arriving inside wood packing material from China. The invasive pest has caused the loss of over 147,000 trees in Ohio, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Illinois, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (Image from USDA, lick for larger image)

ALB in the U.S.

Outside its native range of China, Korea, and Japan, ALB is considered invasive.

In North America, the maple is the most commonly infested tree, but ALB can also kill other ecologically important native hardwoods, including Buckeye, birch, poplar, sycamore, and elm. Once a tree is infested, it must be cut and removed, to prevent the spread of this destructive, non-native insect.

ALB was first discovered in the U.S. in 1996 in Brooklyn, N.Y., arriving inside wood packing material from China.

The invasive pest has caused the loss of over 147,000 trees in Ohio, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Illinois, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), but it has been successfully eradicated in Chicago, and parts of suburban New York City.

State and federal forestry officials are doing all they can to stop the spread of ALB in view of the impact of another Asian exotic, the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB).

Since its discovery in southeastern Michigan in 2002, the destructive insect (Agrilus planipennis) has spread rapidly, killing tens of millions of ash trees in 32 states.

EAB was first found in Kentucky in 2009, with the highest infestation rates in the tier of counties between Louisville, Lexington and the southern suburbs of Cincinnati.

The beetle larva bores through the bark, to the cambium layer, and eventually the tree’s heartwood, in the process cutting off water and nutrients, which causes trees to starve, weaken and eventually die. (Photo provided)

ALB Life Cycle

“August is the peak of emergence, so now is the time to look for adult beetles and tree damage,” said Nielsen.

Adults can fly, but not far, to reach nearby potential host trees. The beetle’s lack of mobility is the main reason infestations, when found, can be contained, and kept from spreading.

Adult are large, shiny black insects measuring about 1 to 1 ½ inches long, with random white spots. Their white-banded antennae are long, the length of the female, and almost twice the body length of the male.

Adult females lay 45 to 62 eggs. The beetle larva bores through the bark, to the cambium layer, and eventually the tree’s heartwood, in the process cutting off water and nutrients, which causes trees to starve, weaken and eventually die.

Signs of infestation include:

• Perfectly round exit holes (about 3/8 to 1/2 inch in diameter) made by adult beetles when they emerge from trees.
• Pockmarks on tree trunks and branches where female beetles deposit eggs.
• Frass (wood shavings and sawdust) produced by larva feeding and tunneling.
• Early fall coloration of leaves or dead branches.
• Running sap at the egg laying sites, or in response to larval tunneling.

Valuable Maple Trees

August is the peak of emergence, so now is the time to look for adult beetles and tree damage. Signs of infestation include perfectly round exit holes (about 3/8 to 1/2 inch in diameter) made by adult beetles when they emerge from trees. (Photo provided)

Maples are genus Acer, from the family Sapindaceae, found in North America, Europe and Asia.

Worldwide, there are 128 species, most of which are native to Asia.

In North America, maples are important as the source of syrup and wood products.

The sap from sugar maples is boiled to produce maple syrup.

Maple wood has many uses, including flooring, furniture, cutting boards, butcher blocks, bowling pins, pool cues and the limbs of archery recurve bows.

Craftsmen use highly-figured maple to make decorative dining and coffee tables, and turn slabs of the wood on lathes, to create heirloom quality bowls.

Maple trees provide shade from the summer sun, award us with vibrant orange, red and yellow fall coloration, sweeten up our pancakes and waffles with syrup, and provide us with sturdy, beautiful furniture.

The loss of America’s maple trees would be devastating.

The Asian Long-Horned Beetle is the latest example of how globalism, and the resulting trade with China, has wreaked havoc on the flora and fauna of North America.

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Art Lander Jr. is outdoors editor for KyForward. He is a native Kentuckian, a graduate of Western Kentucky University and a life-long hunter, angler, gardener and nature enthusiast. He has worked as a newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and author and is a former staff writer for Kentucky Afield Magazine, editor of the annual Kentucky Hunting & Trapping Guide and Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide, and co-writer of the Kentucky Afield Outdoors newspaper column.

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