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Asian Beetle Threatens Maples
The Asian longhorn beetle has infested and devastated maples, and other trees in New York City, Long Island and Chicago.

This China native gained entry by stowing away on packing crates and slipping through inspections at international ports in those areas.

With Georgia's three major international ports in Savannah, Brunswick and the Atlanta airport, could the state's trees be in danger?

"In Georgia, the Asian longhorn beetle has not yet caused a problem," says Keith Douce, an Extension Service entomologist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

"A number of safeguards are in place," Douce said."We have not had a problem with it in Georgia, but it has been intercepted a few times in Savannah."

Inspections Prevent Infestation

Both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Georgia State Department of Agriculture have thorough inspection systems to protect against this dangerous insect.

"They inspect everything coming in, particularly shipments from China, to ensure the insect does not escape and become established here," Douce said. "Any suspected shipments are stopped. If the insects are found, the packing crate is fumigated or rejected from entry."

The safeguards are so stringent because where the beetle has become established in the U.S., no control has been effective beyond cutting down host trees. Entire neighborhoods have lost beautiful stands of trees to try to stop the insect's spread.

Identifying the Beetle

The Asian longhorn beetle is a typical hard-bodied beetle about 1½ inches long. It has a glossy black body with long antennae and distinctive black and white markings on both the body and antennae, the entomologist said.

It seems to prefer maples, including boxelder, Norway, red, silver, sugar and sycamore maples. Other known hosts are horsechestnut, black locust, elms, birches, willows, poplars and green ash.

A complete list of host trees in the United States has not been determined.

"The female insect finds a suitable host tree and lays from one to 70 eggs, which hatch into larvae that bore into the wood," Douce said. "Eventually the tree weakens and become susceptible to wind damage."

Because the pest isn't native to the U.S., no native organisms help control it.

"When it becomes established," Douce warned, "the population can develop rapidly unchecked. It can be a serious problem for maples and other trees."

As long as state and federal inspection programs stay on guard, any likely introductions would be stopped before they become established, Douce said.

More information on this insect is available on the web at http://www.gaipm.org/, or from your local county extension office.

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