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Pa. Dept. of Agriculture urges public to help keep foreign beetle from entering state
Agriculture Secretary George Greig is encouraging Pennsylvanians to protect the commonwealth tree population by spotting, collecting and submitting suspected Asian longhorned beetles to experts.

“Many Pennsylvanians are aware of the threat that invasive species pose to our state’s timber, maple syrup and tourism industries, but awareness isn’t enough,” said Greig. “Since Asian longhorned beetles are similar in appearance to more common beetles, we need citizens to capture samples and submit them to experts for identification.”

Greig added that while Pennsylvanians can submit suspect beetles to the department headquarters in Harrisburg or to its six other regional office locations, county Penn State Extension offices are often a closer, quicker option.

“There’s a Penn State Extension office near every citizen – one in all 67 Pennsylvania counties – to quickly identify and respond to threats from invasive species,” said Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences Acting Dean Barb Christ. “We work closely with the department to efficiently and effectively find ways to combat invasive species. When the public submits specimens of invasive plants and pests, rather than relying on our staff to find and catch them, it frees our experts to continue their research into fighting invasive species.”

Collect a sample and ship it to a county extension office or Department of Agriculture office along with a sample submission form. Find the form here.

The reminder comes during August Tree Check Month, part of a national campaign urging people to take 10 minutes to check their trees for signs of the Asian longhorned beetle.

Greig added that since many species of wood-boring insects, including the Asian longhorned beetle and emerald ash borer, can be spread through transport of infested firewood and logs, campers and homeowners are encouraged to: use only locally harvested firewood; burn all of it on-site; and not carry it to new locations.

The adult Asian longhorned beetle is three-quarters to one-and-a-quarter inches long, has a jet-black glossy body with white spots on each wing, and long, black and bluish-white antennae.

Beetle larvae tunnel through tree stems causing girdling that cuts off the flow of nutrients, eventually killing the tree and resulting in coarse sawdust at the base of infested parts of the tree. Adult beetles leave round exit holes in the tree after they emerge. There is no known practical control for this wood-boring pest other than destroying infested trees.

The beetles attack and eventually kill many species of trees, but prefer maple species. Soft (red maple) and hard (sugar maple) trees make up more than 25 percent of Pennsylvania’s hardwood forests. The beetle also attacks species of ash, birch, buckeye, elm, horsechestnut, poplar and willow trees. As much as $10 billion in lumber and pulp production and $3 million in maple syrup sales are at risk.

Native to China, Mongolia and Korea, the beetle was first discovered in North America in New York in 1996 and has since been found in Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio and Ontario, mainly in urban settings.

Pennsylvania’s proximity to New York, New Jersey and Ohio raise a concern due to frequent travel across state borders for recreational purposes. Should the beetle be found in Pennsylvania, the Department of Agriculture will partner with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s Plant Protection and Quarantine division and the U.S. Forest Service to implement a full-scale eradication program.

The program would entail surveys, imposing quarantines to prevent accidental transport of the beetle, removal and destruction of infested host trees and high risk trees, as well as outreach and replanting efforts. Early detection of the beetle can lessen the severity and impacts of these activities.

If citizens suspect a sighting of Asian longhorned beetle, call the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s toll-free pest hotline at 1-866-253-7189 or e-mail.

For more information about Asian longhorned beetle, including photos, visit here.

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August 20, 2014

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