The Asian Longhorned Beetle

The Asian Longhorned Beetle is a textbook case for the damage that an alien invasive can cause. First detected in the U.S. in 1996, it’s thought they hitched a ride on wooden pallets from China. They have no native natural enemies, so they were free to multiply and spread, including north to New England.

For those not from around here, the city of Worcester, Mass., was known for its residential neighborhoods with their shady tree-lined streets. Not anymore.

In August of 2008, a grandmother in Worcester noticed a strange-looking bug in her driveway. She was concerned that it might be harmful to her visiting grandchildren. So, she took a picture of it and sent it to an expert to find out what it was.

The good news was that it’s not harmful to humans. The bad news was that it’s deadly to trees, especially hardwoods like maple, oak, beech, etc. The beetle bores into the tree, and lays its eggs. The larvae then feed off the nutrients in the sap, eventually killing the tree.

The discovery that it was an Asian Longhorned Beetle touched off a massive multi-million dollar effort, first to prevent it from spreading, and secondly to eradicate it. This meant cutting down thousands of infested trees in a 70-square mile area.

The effort seems to be working. The spread may not have been stopped entirely, but it certainly has slowed down. Vigilance now plays an important part, so local officials can respond quickly and contain any new infestation.

This is where everyone can do their part, by familiarizing themselves with this beetle and its habits, and checking trees from time to time for signs of infestation. A useful website is the link to the eradication program is