Last month, customs officials in Detroit discovered a highly invasive species, the Khapra beetle, in a shipment of tiles from China. The beetle damages grains, cottonseeds and fruits, and with one-third of our country’s gross domestic product coming from agriculture, you can imagine the economic disaster that could result from an infestation. Unfortunately, many invasive insects have already made their way on to U.S. soil, and tree populations across the country are feeling the devastating effects.
The Asian longhorned beetle has been discovered in Holden, Mass. A crew clearing debris in the area found five trees that appeared to be infested, and federal investigators also discovered 10 more trees that had beetle exit holes or egg sites. Already, about 22,000 trees in Massachusetts have been cut down and chipped in an effort to halt the spread of the insect, costing taxpayers an estimated $14 million. A native of China, the black and white insect bores holes in hardwoods, eventually killing them.
The notorious emerald ash borer (EAB) continues to make its way across the country, most recently discovered in about 30 trees in Cattaraugus County, N.Y. Since its discovery in Michigan seven years ago, EAB has been responsible for the destruction of an estimated 70 million ash trees in the U.S. This is the first time the insect has been identified in New York, a state that is home to 900 million ash trees, about 7 percent of the state’s tree population. The spread is caused primarily through the transportation of firewood and other untreated wood products, so state regulations ban untreated firewood from other states and restrict shipping firewood farther than 50 miles.
Our best defense against these destructive pests? Education and observation. If you haven’t already, familiarize yourself with invasive species and be on the lookout for any signs of a potential infestation. (See page 14 of this issue to learn more about boring insects, including EAB.) Educate your customers and crew on what to look for and how to identify invasive species. The USDA’s National Invasive Species Information Center (www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov) offers a wealth of information on invasive species identification, prevalence and management. If you discover evidence of an infestation in your area, contact your state’s department of agriculture.