I get asked all the time, “My trees are covered with bugs! How do I get rid of them?” Most of the time it’s hard to answer that question, because the answer is simple. Trees have bugs in them, and will always have bugs in them, deal with it. There is a balance in our ecosystem, and bugs are a big part of it. In my experience I have found out that bugs typically attack trees that are already weakened by something else. Something like construction damage, soil compaction, or mechanical injury to name a few. There are a few bugs that we, as a society, need to watch out for. This is write-up is about one of those insects.
Asian Lorn-horned Beetle (ALB) is a beetle that is native of China. Its was accidentally introduced to the United States in the 1980’s – 1990’s. Wood from China, that was used to make pallets and shipping crates, was infested with ALB and introduced to the US. Asian Long-horned Beetle then hatched from the infected wood and started attacking hardwood trees. The first documented discovery of ALB was on August 19, 1996 in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NYC. Millions of dollars have been spent in an attempt to control ALB. In New Jersey over 23,000 trees have been cut down and destroyed in an effort to eradicate ALB. Unfortunately in December of 2008 the effort was complicated by a devastating ice storm. Down tree limbs infected with ALB were cleaned up, but not properly destroyed and have spread the infestation to other states.
The life cycle of Asian Long-horned beetle goes like this. An adult beetle, that has already mated, goes to a host tree. That host tree is typically the same tree that they emerged from, but if the population is too high they can fly up to 400 yards to find a new host tree. The adult then lays it’s eggs in the host tree. In 10-15 days the eggs hatch into larvae. The larvae then feeds and tunnels deep into the heartwood of the tree over a period of several weeks. In the heartwood, the larvae then matures into a pupae. Over the winter the pupae will hatch into an adult. Then around late spring the adult emerges, and the life cycle starts again.
Now let me tie this all together. I did say in the beginning that tree’s have bugs in them, so deal with it. Here is why this bug is so different. Asian Long-horned Beetle is not native to this area. So the trees in this area have almost no defense against them. Also, no chemical or biological control methods are currently known. This bug is not prejudice and attacks both healthy and dying trees. ALB has been seen and reported in only a limited area, meaning that eradication efforts could be successful. On the flip side, if this beetle is allowed to adapt into our ecosystem, it has been estimated that it will kill 1.6 billion trees nationwide. That would have devastating effects on our forest ecosystem.
As a homeowner, you can do your part to help the eradication effort. All you need is your vision and some time. Inspect your trees for the beetle seen above, or look for it’s exit holes. The holes are 3/8 to 3/4 of an inch in diameter (1.5–2 cm) often on the larger branches of infected tree’s crowns. Check all hardwood trees, and shrubs. You can ignore conifers (Spruces, Pines, ect.) because ALB has only been spotted on hard-wooded trees. If you spot a Asian Long-horned beetle, contact a NJ Certified Tree Expert, or call the Asian Long-horned Beetle Hot line at 1-866-BEETLE1.