Invasive Pest Threatens Rhode Island Trees
By Cynthia Kwolek
New England is famous for its beautiful hardwood forests, which provide our maple syrup,
beautiful scenery, and glow with fiery color each autumn. Unfortunately, there is a current threat to our forests and it comes in the form of a beetle about 2 inches large. This beetle is the Asian
Longhorned Beetle, an invasive forest pest that had been discovered in the United States in 1996. The ALB is native to Eastern Asia and was imported through the use of wooden packaging
crates. It has a wide range of host trees, preferring maple, but also attacking willow, poplar, ash, locust, and more, many of which make up our New England greenery. Its first discovery was in
Brooklyn, New York and has since spread throughout the East Coast.
One location where this beetle has been the cause of massive tree devastation is Worcester,
Massachusetts. After its discovery in 2008, in Worcester alone, this little pest has resulted in the loss of more than 26,000 trees. The city of Worcester borders forests that spread up to
Canada and down to the Atlantic coast, giving the beetle dangerous access to spread. For instance, by 2010, the beetle had spread to Boston. As these areas are in close proximity to
Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management is urging residents to be on the look out for this pest.
The ALB is 1 to 1.5 inches long, and as its name suggests, has long black and white stripped "horns" or antennae. The insect is shiny black, with
large white spots on its back. Upon infesting a tree, the beetle lays eggs which hatch, leaving larvae to bore inside of the tree, disrupting the tree's
water and food uptake, and eventually killing the tree. When the larvae mature, they exit the tree as an adult leaving a large dime-sized exit hole.
So, what is being done to stop this predator of New England's trees? Here in Rhode Island, our best strategy is to constantly be on the lookout for
infestation. So far, none have been found in RI; however, the sooner an infestation is found, the less of a chance the beetle has to spread, and fewer
tress to be removed. There currently is no treatment that can be applied to the trees, as the larvae would be unaffected inside. In Massachusetts,
state and federal agencies have had to remove and destroy affected trees, leaving many neighborhoods and parks stripped of their greenery and shade.
Residents are encouraged to participate in the search for potential ALB infestation. You can help by monitoring the trees in your area. If you suspect
an infestation, please visit RIDEM's website to report sightings at www.ri.gov/DEM/caps. RIDEM, along with the Rhode Island Forest Conservators
Organization (RIFCO), recently held a free informational session at the Jesse M. Smith Memorial Library in Harrisville. For dates of future sessions,
to learn how you can further participate, or to volunteer in a survey, please contact Cynthia Kwolek at 401-949-1770 or firstname.lastname@example.org.