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Keep Bad Beetles out of Florida: Don’t Move Firewood!

August 6, 2013

Florida welcomes hordes of tourists each year, and each summer thousands of Floridians seek a break from the heat of our semitropical summers by vacationing in other states. During August, Tree Check Month, vacationers, campers, hikers and everyone else enjoying parks and forests are being enlisted in the battle against a devastating invasive pest and tree killer, the Asian longhorned beetle (ALB).

The beetle has not yet been found in Florida but is known to infest other states.

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Asian longhorned beetle. (Photo courtesy of Clemson University)

The ALB, as well as other tree pests including the redbay ambrosia beetle that is spreading laurel wilt disease and threatens Florida’s avocado industry, is spread by the movement of infested firewood, and travelers should be aware of the risks of transporting firewood. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is part of the Don’t Move Firewood campaign. Travelers should buy wood at their destination and purchase local firewood only. Don’t take firewood back home with you.

“The Asian longhorned beetle has no known natural predators and threatens recreational areas, forests, and suburban and urban shade trees.  The beetle bores through the tissues that carry water and nutrients throughout the tree, which causes the tree to starve, weaken and eventually die. Once a tree is infested, it must be removed. It has caused tens of thousands of trees to be destroyed in New Jersey, Ohio, Massachusetts, New York, and Illinois.

This year New Jersey became the second state to declare the beetle eradicated. It was successfullly eradicated from Illinois in 2008. Once infected trees are identified, they must be destroyed.

Detecting the Beetle

alb_wood

Firewood infested with the Asian longhorned beetle. The beetle is transferred when firewood is moved from one part of the country to another. Travelers should heed the message: “Don’t Move Firewood.” Use local firewood only.

USDA APHIS, The  U.S. Forest Service, the Nature Conservancy, and American Forests are urging the public to join the battle against the pest by watching for it and signs of infestation. Adult beetles are most active during the summer and early fall. They can be seen on trees, branches, walls, outdoor furniture, cars, and sidewalks and caught in pool filters. With these unique characteristics, the beetle can be easy to see:

  • 1 to 1 ½ inches in length
  • Long antennae banded in black and white (longer than the insect’s body)
  • Shiny, jet black body with random white spots
  • Six legs
  • Legs may appear bluish in color

In addition to looking for the beetle, you can search for signs of infestation, including:

  • Dime-sized (1/4″ or larger), perfectly round exit holes in the tree
  • Oval depressions on the bark where the eggs are laid
  • Sawdust-like materials, called frass, on the ground and the branches
  • Sap seeping from wounds in the tree

Early detection is crucial in the fight against this invasive pest. The sooner an infestation is reported, the sooner efforts can be made to quickly contain and isolate an area from future destruction. The ALB was first discovered in the U.S. in 1996. It has no known natural predators. It  attacks 13 genera of trees, but its greatest impacts appears to be be on maple trees.

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