The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 31, 2008


Watch out for the Asian Longhorned Beetle

The Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) has been in the news again because of the infestation found in Worcester last summer. It is not yet known to be in Carlisle or adjacent towns, but

(Photo from the U.S. Forest Service)

we should be on the alert because it can be inadvertently moved around the country in firewood. The pest has had approximately ten years to hitch a ride outside of the newly created Worcester quarantine area. It could be here.

Why it is a danger.

The beetle was accidentally introduced to the United States and has no native predators so it eventually kills all American host trees, sometimes within two to three years. It will not be halted by its own behavior until the damage it has done is extreme, because we have so many trees it likes to feed on. Its favorite food seems to be maple, but it is also known to attack horse chestnut, willow, ash, plane, birch, poplar and elm. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA )and the U.S. Forest Service consider it a very serious threat, equal to or greater than Dutch Elm Disease, Chestnut Blight, Hemlock Woolley Adelgid and another recent arrival, the Emerald Ash Borer.

What you can do

First, learn to recognize it and be on the look-out for it. Second, if you think you have seen one, note the location, try and capture it, and if successful, call the hotline at 1-866-702-9938 or report it online at (We have a native longhorned beetle, the White Spotted Sawyer, that is similar in appearance. Either of us would be happy to help with the identification before you report it.)

Identifying characteristics

The adult beetle has a body about an inch or more long and antennae that are two inches or more long. The body is black with scattered white spots and the antennae have black and white bands. It is a rather handsome beetle. It can be seen from May into November. The adults are leaf feeders and have a unique habit of eating the vein area of the leaves. Other signs are the round holes about half an inch in diameter and the resulting sawdust pile that are left when the adult beetle bores its way out of the tree.The beetle larvae or grubs are white with brown heads and up to two inches long. The adult female chews a distinctive pit into the host tree bark onto which she lays a cluster of eggs. The early-stage larvae tunnel straight into the tree. From November through May, the beetle is completely safe inside the tree.

ALB U.S. history

It is believed that the beetle arrived in the U.S. as adults bored into the wood used in shipping pallets. For the last ten years imported shipping material has been required to be either kiln dried or fumigated so hopefully that hole has been plugged. ALB was found and eradicated in New York in 1996, Chicago in 1998, New Jersey in 2002 and Toronto in 2003. It is important to note that these previous infestations and also Worcester’s were all found by average citizens; you are on the front line! An ALB beetle was collected by a tree professional in 1997 and unfortunately not reported. This gave the beetle a ten-year head start. Thankfully the beetle does not fly very far when there are abundant host trees; adults often lay eggs on the same tree they were born on.

USDA eradication program

This is huge. The cost for Worcester has been estimated at $34 million. About 1,800 infested trees have been found to date. A radius of 1.5 miles is drawn around each infested tree, and then the quarantine area is enlarged to the next road or river as a border. The Worcester quarantine is now 62 square miles. Each potential host tree in that entire area must be checked, often by climbers. The USDA currently has 65 people on the ground looking for the pest, and tree removal has not even begun yet. They are waiting until December when the adults will have died. Specially trained private tree-care companies will then remove all infested trees and all of the waste will be carefully chipped, ground and transported within the quarantine area.

Tree preservation

Previous infestations have been generally limited to industrial port environments and all suspect host trees near infested trees have simply been removed. The Worcester area is largely residential and native forest, however, so greater care is being taken to preserve as many trees as possible. Suspect trees may be treated with an insecticide and monitored. Residents losing trees will be able to select from an array of ALB-resistant species and have these planted at the expense of the USDA.

Homeland Security

After 9/11 the National Incident Management System (NIMS) was implemented to facilitate rapid communications in response to all types of natural and man-made emergencies by federal, state and local agencies and governments. The Worcester ALB appears to be a good example of NIMS working well; The USDA, U.S. Forest Service, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation and the City of Worcester all appear to be effectively coordinated.


There are several online resources available which you can easily find by searching for “Asian Longhorned Beetle” or even just “ALB.” ∆

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito