Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Invasive "city longhorned beetle" Species Intercepted by USDA APHIS

    Our Congress and political elites, egged on by much of the news media, focuses on grenades and bombs on people and in containers that flow through our ports of entry. They appropriate billions while ignoring the work of the quietly effective Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) inspectors who intercept the really dangerous enemies of the state. These invasive species make building bombers look like wimps. While a bombs could destroy a part of a city, invasive insects and diseases can wipe out whole sections of our country's landscape and food supply system like a giant tidal wave of uncontrollable destruction.

Photo by M.E. Smirnov
    Recently at Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia, USDA APHIS intercepted Aeolesthes sarta also known as the city longhorned beetle and not to be confused with its relative, the invasive  Asian longhorned beetle. Aeolesthes sarta is native to northwestern India northern Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, southern Kyrgyzstan, in mountainous areas frequently in the news for other invasive threats which get front page exposure. First found in the 1920s in the highlands of the Asian subcontinent, the beetle has a high potential for establishment in North America because of climate similarities and host availability.[1]

    This tree-killing borer will change ecological balances in natural and urban forests. In other words it will keep the trees that line the streets where we live and decimate the tree-line of natural areas and landscapes. The city longhorn beetle is potentially one of the most destructive pests of many deciduous forest, ornamental and fruit-bearing trees in North America. According to the BugWood web site, "It attacks both stressed and healthy trees of all ages. Sometimes young larvae girdle a tree while feeding on the cambium, which leads to the rapid death of the tree. Young trees with a thin bark are the most susceptible to the beetle. Sometimes the presence of just 1 to 3 larvae per tree is enough to cause mortality. There are reported cases where the pest killed large areas of mountain forests. Major damage is also caused to city plantations. Serious damage is also observed in shelterbelts and in fruit (especially apple) orchards."[2]

    The destructive potential is clear even if the will to do anything is weak to non existent. The efforts of underfunded APHIS will go unnoticed and when the beetle finally gets through and the trees begin to die, then we shall clamor for solutions that will be too costly to undertake. We are in the early detection phase with little hope of sufficient rapid response funding if when the beetle gets past our unsung heroes of USDA. Let me be clear as I can - the city longhorn beetle is known to attack Ulmus, Populus, Salix, Platanus, Malus, Prunus, Pyrus, Juglans, Quercus, Betula, Fraxinus, Acer, Morus, Geditsia, Robinia, and Elaeagnus. Imagine the landscapes and ecosystems with all these species severely attacked and reduced in number. And for those that care not for ecosystems, imagine then the costs to cut down the trees before the come down on homes and businesses.

    The current Congress is so busy protecting us from human invasion that to find funding for home defense they take money from the century old programs that have so long held the line against ecological and agricultural invaders that threaten our food, feed, fiber fuel and forest resources. Congress that ever so short sighted aggregation of only one solution to budget problems just took another 75 million plus from current 2011 operations funding for USDA ARS and APHIS. Congress along with the rest of us will wonder why our forests have disappeared when it is actually too late to do anything.

 [1] City Longhorned Beetle.
[2]   Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health at the University of Georgia.


1 comment:

IMRAN said...

Scary looking bug(ger). :-)