The Asian longhorned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis) was first introduced in North America in the mid 1990’s. It spread rapidly throughout the continent, causing widespread destruction of beautiful trees, including maples, horse chestnuts, willows, and elms. Last month, beetle larvae were discovered in Kent, Britain. The Forestry Commission may have to take serious environmental precautions and remove any trees that are infected or may be potential hosts for the beetle. They ask members of the public to remain vigilant and report any possible infestations.
The Asian longhorned beetle
This tree-killing beetle is native to China and Korea. It is believed to have entered the western world through untreated wooden packing crates from China. Although the most immediate threat is the widespread mortality and damage to many trees, secondary effects include the possible impacts on the maple, lumber, and tourism industries, among others.
This beetle is easily distinguishable by its coal black body, dotted with yellow and white spots. It also has two large black and white antennae, or horns. The female will chew a small hole into the tree’s trunk until it reaches the cambium layer, which is responsible for healing the wounds of the tree. She then inserts a single egg into the hole, where it is able to develop, protected and hidden from external threats. This is repeated multiple times. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the cadmium layer, eventually destroying it, and consequently killing the tree.
There are limited methods available to control the pest. Usually, environmental agencies must identify the infested trees, cut them down, and chip them into tiny pieces. This destroys the natural habitat of the Asian longhorned beetle, however it may also turn a previously beautifully shaded forest into a barren landscape.
No health risk to humans
The beetle is not dangerous to humans, however humans should not ignore the possible consequences if this pest continues to spread. It has the potential to severely damage entire forest ecosystems. This would cause a number of adverse environmental impacts, such as the loss of animal species that depend on the forest for protection and food. Additionally, the possible economic impact on affected industries and export markets for wooden products should not be underestimated.