Coming Soon to a Tree Near You! (Maybe.)

— Written By

Coming soon to a tree near you! (Maybe.)

September 10, 2014
NC Forest Service – Forest Health

North Carolina has its fair share of invasive insects and diseases that threaten to destroy our natural resources. In 2010, laurel wilt was first found in the state. In 2011, thousand cankers disease was found. And in 2013, the first detection of the emerald ash borer was made. But what does the future hold? Will the invasive species just keep on coming? The short answer is: most likely, yes.

There are already some invasive insects that have used their one-way ticket to the U.S. They threaten other parts of the nation and have the potential to enter North Carolina either through natural spread or via long-range dispersal in firewood. In the case of invasive species, all good things do not come to those who wait.

The Asian longhorned beetle is one of these. It is a striking beetle with long antennae. Native to Asia, it has been found in several states, including Illinois, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. To date, it has not been found in North Carolina. Unlike many of our other invasive species that only attack a single group of trees, the Asian longhorned beetle attacks many tree species. Among its favorites are maple, willow, and elm. When the Asian longhorned beetle comes to town, it leaves dead trees in its wake. But only if you let it!

The good thing about the Asian longhorned beetle is that in areas where small infestations have been detected, eradication has been possible. Trees with any signs or symptoms of infestation are removed quickly and a quarantine is typically put into place to prevent further spread. This plan, while leaving an area with much less trees that it had before, has shown to be successful more than once.

The interesting thing about these early detections is that almost all of them have been detected by homeowners. These homeowners have taken the bug by its horns and been proactive participants in efforts to mitigate damage caused by the Asian longhorned beetle, equipped only with the ability to identify the insect and the damage it causes.

So, equip yourself! Identifying this pest and its signs is fairly simple. The Asian longhorned beetle is fairly large, measuring 1 to 1½ inches in length. They are black with about 40 white spots on their wing covers. Their antennae are very long, extending past the tip of their abdomen, and have black and white banding. Not only will an infested tree likely look in poor health, but it may have exit holes or egg laying niches on the bark. Exit holes are round and about the diameter of a pencil (up to ¾ inch). Egg-laying niches are round or oval depressions in the bark, chewed out by the female beetle.

LEFT: The adult Asian longhorned beetle is black with white spots and has banded antennae. Early identification of the insect is critical in an eradication program. Image: Joe Boggs, Bugwood.org. RIGHT: Exit holes of the Asian longhorned beetle are round and about the size of a pencil (shown below finger). Egg-laying niches are oval or round depressions in the bark. Image: Dennis Haugen, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org.

Now, you’re ready. If this insect ever does make its way to North Carolina, then maybe it could be you who alerts authorities to its presence. Hey, there are worse ways to become famous! To report an invasive species, call  or report by email: newpest@ncagr.gov.