Monday, August 1, 2011

Invasive Species: Asian longhorned beetle

An Asian longhorned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis), also known as the ALB or starry sky beetle

These beautiful insects are not only one of the 100 World's Worst Invasives, but they are in fact in the top ten, listed as #7. The term "longhorned" is a bit of a misnomer as these beetles have long antennae rather than projections from their carapace.

This beetle is native to Asian countries such as Japan and China. Believed to have been introduced to New York in the 1980's and discovered in 1996, it is invasive in areas of Canada and the United States. It is currently restricted to urban areas, where it will attack hardwood trees. Over a period of three to five years, an infested tree will slowly die. About 30-35% of trees in these areas are at risk, and if the population of beetles is not contained it could cause a loss of 1.2 billion trees, a value estimated to be $669 billion. If the beetles spread to forest areas, 71 billion trees could be lost that value in at more than $2 trillion.

This beetle is showing off its characteristic antennae
These beetles have been intercepted in numerous Europen countries, and as such they have not as of yet become a problem there. Over $800 million has been spent trying to eradicate the beetles. The eradication measures are rather extensive, including detailed inspections to determine the extent of an infestation. Infested trees are destroyed as well as all high-risk trees within 400 meters of infected trees and all high-risk trees within a further 400 meters are also destroyed or treated with a pesticide known to be effective against adult beetles. 

Images are from Wikimedia Commons and are either copyright free or under a creative commons license: one, two

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