State department: Look for invasive species

The Asian longhorn beetle kills trees over time when it burrows into them to lay eggs and leech off the trees' nutrients. Photo courtesy of the USDA.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is advising residents to check their trees for signs of infestation from an invasive species.

While the Asian longhorn beetle has not yet been spotted in Virginia, its residence in Massachusetts, Ohio and New York has the department on alert for the bug.

Dawn Eischen, a spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said campfire season is a good time for Virginians to look out for signs of the invaders.

“It’s a really good time to check for them in August,” Eischen said. “People are starting to cut down trees for firewood.”

Eischen went on to explain that people transporting firewood across state lines sometimes unknowingly spread bugs burrowed into the wood.

When looking for the Asian longhorn beetle, one should look for a shiny black bug with white spots that’s roughly 1 inch long. It has six legs and long antennae with black and white bands, longer than its body, according to a news release.

Signs of an infestation include perfectly round exit holes from a tree, roughly the size of a dime or smaller. Additionally, the adult beetles will chew shallow oval or round scars in the bark for an egg site.

According to Debra Martin, program manager for the office of plant industry services, the beetles’ infestation works when the female bugs chew into the bark of a tree and lay their eggs there. When those eggs hatch, the larvae dig into and feed on the tree, strangling it to death by cutting off its nutrient supply.

However, she said an Asian longhorn beetle infestation is not quite as severe as the emerald ash borer, another invasive species, because the beetle is not as quick to sprawl across an area.

“The Asian longhorn beetle is easier to handle because it’s kind of lazy, and they like to stay in one area,” Martin said.

Additional clues of an infestation include a sawdust-like mater around the tree, or excessive limb loss from an otherwise healthy tree.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services advises residents to take a photo of the bug for evidence, capture and freeze the bug for identification, and call in at 804-786-3515, or call the U.S. Department of Agriculture at 866-702-9938.

An infestation can also be reported online at http://tiny.cc/lezsdy.

According to the release, the beetle comes from Asia and was first discovered in the U.S. in 1996. Since its discovery, it has led to the loss of more than 160,000 trees.

Contact staff writer Jake Zuckerman at 540-465-5137 ext. 152, or jzuckerman@nvdaily.com