Charting Asian Longhorned Beetle’s Roaming Habits

If the Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) continues its advance, this pest may alter the makeup of North American hardwood forests, according to an Agricultural Research Service article by Erin Kendrick-Peabody. Losses to lumber, maple syrup and tourism industries that are dependent on healthy hardwood trees could reach $670 billion.

Now Michael T. Smith, an ARS entomologist at the Beneficial Insects Introduction Research Unit in Newark, Del., has generated new dispersal data that predicts how far the beetle might spread once it begins to invade an area, the article says.

The article states that the pest was first found in the United States in 1996, a stowaway amidst wooden crates from China. Since then, it has invaded hardwood trees in the East, leaving a mark on New York City and Chicago parks. More than 7,500 trees have succumbed to the pest. Its larvae feed inside trees, weakening them and disrupting vital nutrient flow.

Determining ALB presence has depended solely upon visual surveys. For this, crews climb host trees, such as maple and elm, in search of beetle activity. They scan for small markings where eggs are laid under the bark and for dime-sized holes indicating an adult beetle has exited the tree. Locating these subtle signs of ALB infestation is time-consuming and costly, according to the ARS article.

Beetle surveys and the methods used to establish quarantine boundaries have been missing something. That important piece of the ALB puzzle is an increased understanding of the beetle itself--specifically, how it moves in the environment.

Realizing this, Smith and colleagues conducted the first ALB dispersal research in the beetle's home territory of Gansu Province, China. They marked and released almost 40,000 beetles, collected from nature, and tracked their movements. Their finding? The beetles fly much longer distances than originally thought--even females carrying eggs.

This new dispersal data could be used to establish more reliable survey and quarantine boundaries, increasing the chances of successful eradication, according to the ARS article. ARS is the USDA's chief scientific research agency.

Source: Agricultural Research Services and Erin Kendrick-Peabody

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