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Be on the Lookout for a Tree-Killer in Wisconsin

This is damage from the Asian long-horned beetle, which bores holes and tunnels into hardwood, eventually killing the tree. (Photo courtesy USDA)
This is damage from the Asian long-horned beetle, which bores holes and tunnels into hardwood, eventually killing the tree. (Photo courtesy USDA)
August 5, 2013

MADISON, Wis. - It's a black beetle about 1.5 inches long with white spots and long antennae, and it bores holes into hardwood trees to lay its eggs. It's called the Asian long-horned beetle and it is a very dangerous bug, according to Rhonda Santos, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

"The Asian long-horned beetle is a killer of trees," Santos warned. "It attacks 13 different types of trees and all the subspecies, so when you think about maples, it's silver maples, it's red maples, it's sugar maples. It goes after a wide variety of our nation's hardwood trees, and it will kill the tree."

The beetle has been found in Illinois and Ohio, but so far has not invaded Wisconsin. It came to the U.S. from China in wooden crates used to carry merchandise. Because it is not native to our country, it has no natural enemies to keep it in check.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture is trying to keep the pest out of the state by watching for telltale signs on hardwood trees. The beetles bore round holes about three-eighths of an inch in diameter into trunks and branches, creating long tunnels to lay their eggs. This eventually weakens and kills the tree.

The USDA has designated August as "Tree Check Month," and Santos said everyone can help.

"We would like folks to get out and check their trees," she said. "Take a look at their trees if they've got a few minutes to spare when they're out and about, either in their back yard or in their neighborhood, in their favorite park. Take a look at the trees. See if there are any holes, any signs of the Asian long-horned beetle, and report any sightings."

If you think you've found this kind of damage, don't try to deal with it yourself, she added. Contact the state agriculture department, 608-264-5112, and they will send an expert to deal with it.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI