Since its discovery in the U.S. in 1996, the Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) has caused the loss of over 130,000 trees. The exotic pest bores through the tissues that carry water and nutrients throughout the tree, starving and weakening the tree until it dies. Early detection is important in stopping the spread of ALB because once it infests a tree, that tree must be removed. The insect has no known natural predators in the U.S. and must be eradicated by human effort.
The beetle threatens urban and suburban shade trees, recreational resources such as parks, forest resources, and wildlife. It could also impact several industries such as maple syrup production, hardwood lumber processing, nurseries, and tourism. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) cooperates with state and local governments and residents of affected areas to find and destroy ALB infestations. For ALB eradication efforts to be successful, residents in infested and non-infested areas must remain vigilant about this destructive pest. The sooner an infestation is reported, the sooner efforts can be made to quickly contain and isolate an area in order to prevent future destruction.
ALB has a history in Massachusetts, beginning with a massive infestation in Worcester County that necessitated the removal of more than 30,000 trees since 2008. In 2010, ALB was discovered at Faulkner Hospital near the Arboretum. Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, and Brookline operated under quarantine for four years, monitoring the area to ensure that the infestation could not spread to the rest of the neighborhood, including the Arboretum’s collections. In May of 2014, the detection and prevention campaign in cooperation with the USDA was ultimately successful and Boston was declared ALB-free at a press conference held at the Arboretum.
August is a time of peak emergence for the beetle and has therefore been declared ‘Tree Check Month.’ The USDA urges people to check their trees during this crucial month for signs of the invasive beetle and report any findings. For more details, visit the USDA website.