PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management is coordinating a public outreach program for the Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB). ALB is an invasive insect that came to the United States in wooden shipping crates from China and Korea more than 16 years ago. It affects hardwood shade trees such as maple, ash, birch, willow and elm by boring into the core of the tree and eventually killing it. This beetle has the potential of wiping out thousands of the state's trees if it goes undetected.
Rhode Island residents are encouraged to become familiar with the signs and symptoms of ALB. Since ALB has yet to be detected in the state, the Department is asking the public, in addition to nurserymen, commercial pesticide applicators, arborists and other tree health specialists, to notify DEM if they observe any insects resembling the ALB or see symptoms or damage related to this beetle in Rhode Island. In order to determine if ALB is present, residents are being asked to capture the insect and contact DEM as soon as possible at 401-222-2781.
The beetle is large, ranging from 0.75 - 1.25 inches in length with very long black and white antennae. The body is glossy black with irregular white spots. The distinctive antennae that give the beetle its common name are as long as the body itself in females, and almost twice the body length in males. Adult ALB emerge from late spring to early fall and feed on tree bark and tender twigs. During its larval stage, the ALB bores deep in the tree's heartwood, where it feeds on the tree's nutrients. This tunneling damages and eventually kills the tree. The adult ALB then chews its way out of the tree the next summer, leaving perfectly round exit holes that are approximately 1 cm (3/8") in diameter.
Signs of ALB infestation include perfectly round, dime-sized exit holes; frass, a sawdust-like material comprised of tree shavings and insect waste; and oozing sap. Dead and dying tree limbs or branches and yellowing leaves in areas where there has been no drought may also be a sign of ALB. Research indicates this beetle can survive and reproduce in most sections of the country where suitable host trees exist.
It is imperative to prevent the spread of these insects to Rhode Island, or detect them early enough so that they can be dealt with before they cause extensive tree destruction. Tree-eating, non-native insects can be transported in firewood, with the potential to cause damage costing millions of dollars in clean-up, eradication, and replanting efforts. In fact, the issue of invasive species is one of the US Forest Service's top four threats. Detection of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), another exotic invasive insect that attacks Ash trees, was recently discovered in Connecticut, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The financial impact from invasive species infestations in the United States has been estimated at $138 billion per year in total economic damages and associated control costs.
In recognition of the beetle's emergence period, DEM staff members have placed forest pest informational tree tags in popular parks and recreational areas around the state that will be left hanging throughout the month of August. The tree tagging locations include Lincoln Woods, Lincoln; Colt State Park in Bristol; George Washington Campground, Chepachet; Wilcox Park, Westerly and Goddard Park in Warwick. These tags have been strategically placed to show the type of tree species that are at risk from this beetle and encourage the public to look for signs and symptoms of ALB on their own property or while they are out in the natural environment. Included on the tags are web resources for additional information, and the state's forest pest reporting website address and contact information. The tagged host tree species include maple, horse chestnut, willow, London plane, and sycamore. Some ash trees have also been included to promote awareness of EAB, another invasive pest that has an emergence period in June but may still be active now. DEM is currently monitoring for the EAB and has set numerous purple prism traps around the state.
Campers, Others Asked to Use Only Local Firewood
ALB does not spread quickly on its own, but it can easily be inadvertently transported in untreated firewood and other forest products. All Rhode Island residents are reminded to purchase firewood from local sources and not transport firewood from out of state. Firewood brought into Rhode Island from infested areas can easily bring along unwanted hitch hikers like ALB, EAB and other harmful forest pests.
Public Can Report Suspect ALB Sightings Online on DEM Website
DEM has an online reporting form on its website for the public to use to report sightings of the ALB or EAB. The form is available on the DEM website at: https://www.ri.gov/DEM/caps.
In addition to the online reporting mechanism, residents may also call a USDA APHIS staffed toll-free ALB hotline at 866-702-9938 to report any possible sightings of ALB. For further information, contact Liz Lopes-Duguay in DEM's Division of Agriculture at 222-2781 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information on ALB is also available on the DEM website at www.dem.ri.gov. Additional information about ALB is posted on the DEM website at www.dem.ri.gov/programs/bnatres/agricult/pdf/pests_asianlonghornedbeetle.pdf.