“It is similar to a situation that would happen if suddenly a disease started killing all the dairy cows,” said Dave Hively, co-owner of Misty Maples Sugar House and member of the Ohio Maple Producers Association.
The infestation of the Asian longhorned beetle was found in Clermont County in Batavia, Ohio.
It is described as a beetle with black and white markings. When it exits a tree, it leaves perfect round holes the size of a dime (about 3/8 to 1/2 inch in diameter). According to the department of agriculture, the ALB eats the inside of the trunk and branches causing structural weakening and eventually the tree can break apart in wind storms.
“We are currently assessing the situation in Clermont County to determine how large the infestation is,” said U.S. Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Rhonda Santos.
Dan Herms, an entomologist with OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) and an expert on wood-boring insects, said the ALB attacks a number of species, but maple trees, including silver maple, sugar maple and red maple, are some of its favorites.
Herms said the ALB does the most significant damage to the sugar maple trees. The U.S. Forest Service estimates there are more than 7 billion board feet of maple in the state.
The beetle also feeds on these hardwood trees: birch, elm, poplar, ash, horsechestnut and buckeye.
Millions in damage
According to Ohio Department of Agriculture, if not controlled, the beetle could decimate maple trees in Ohio, impacting up to $200 billion worth of standing timber, adversely affecting maple sugar processors, damaging the state’s multi-billion dollar nursery industry, and diminishing Ohio’s popular fall foliage season.
The good news, if any, is that the Asian longhorned beetle spreads more slowly than the emerald ash borer and the insect can be stopped, or even eradicated, if the correct measures are taken.
Herms said the ALB struck Chicago in the mid-1990s. He said control efforts like cutting down the infected trees and treating others in the vicinity with a systemic insecticide were effective in stopping the insect. It hasn’t been found in that area in a few years.
Asian longhorned beetle is being effectively contained in the other four states with known infestations (Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York) and in Toronto, Ontario, in Canada.
Herms said the Asian longhorned beetle entered Ohio through pallets or crates that were infested with the ALB. He called it a hitchhiker because it arrived from Asia.
“Unfortunately, it is inevitable that invasive insects will continue to colonize Ohio and the rest of the U.S. as global commerce increases, and because agricultural inspectors are spread thinner and thinner due to the increased volume of imports and declining state and federal budgets to support their efforts,” said Herms.
Federal and state officials are asking residents to help minimize the spread of ALB and other dangerous insects by not moving firewood (where larvae can hide unseen), and choosing instead to obtain firewood locally when going camping or enjoying other activities outdoors.
Herms said landowners can also help by being vigilant, checking their trees for symptoms of Asian longhorned beetle, and contacting the Ohio Department of Agriculture or OSU Extension if they find suspicious beetles or signs of an infestation.
Meanwhile, Hively is working with the Ohio Maple Producers Association for tougher legislation on people illegally moving firewood. He wants severe penalties to be implemented if someone is caught transporting firewood from one county to another when quarantines are put into place.
Gov. John R. Kasich signed an executive order June 20 restricting the movement of hardwood logs, firewood, stumps, roots and branches out of Clermont County to help prevent the spread of the ALB.
The executive order is effective immediately and also restricts the sale of nursery stock, green lumber, and logs of the following trees: maples, horse chestnut, buckeye, mimosa, birch, hackberry, ash, golden raintree, katsura, sycamore, poplar, willow, mountain ash, and elms.
All of Ohio remains under a quarantine for the emerald ash borer and hardwood firewood is not allowed to leave the state.
“We have to do something to stop the elimination of the maple syrup industry. The emerald ash borer was devastating for the industry. This could be nuclear,” Hively said.
He added that in 2011, Ohio produced 125,000 gallons, which averaged between $30-$50 a gallon.
Residents who think they know of an ALB infestation are encouraged to call ODA’s toll-free ALB hotline at 855-252-6450.
If you have questions about this beetle, call OSU Extension’s Southwest Ohio Asian Longhorned Beetle Information Line at 513-946-8980.