Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Potentially Devastating Pest Found In SoCal Port Shipment

A living specimen of a destructive wood pest has been discovered by government officials at the Long Beach/Los Angeles port complex in a shipment of pineapples from Costa Rica.

It is the first West Coast appearance of the strongylaspis corticaria, a close relative of the highly destructive Asian longhorned beetle, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, and only the second occurrence of this specific species in the US The first occurrence was in Miami in 1999.

Government agriculture specialists discovered the adult beetle in the pineapple shipment last month, but an identification was only confirmed last week. The pineapple shipment was immediately sent back to Costa Rica.

Both larval and adult beetles feed on living tree tissue. Larvae laid by a female adult on the tree eventually bore into the tree, eating through tissue that carries water from tree roots and nutrients from the leaf canopy. Once the pest has sufficiently disrupted these pathways, the infected tree will die.

Certain members of the longhorned beetle family, not including the one found in Southern California, are already a serious concern in other parts of the country.

Longhorned beetles, according to the USDA, likely arrived in the US in solid wood packing materials. The first official US identification of Asian longhorned Beetle was in Brooklyn, New York in 1996 and infestations of certain species now exist in parts of New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts. Infestations were eradicated in Illinois and Hudson County, New Jersey.

The longhorned beetles are a serious threat to hardwood trees and have no known natural predator in US They threaten urban and suburban shade trees, as well as recreation and forest resources valued at billions of dollars.

Asian longhorned beetles primarily damage and kill maple trees, including box elder, red, silver and sugar maple; birch; elm; willow; Ohio buckeye; and horse chestnut. Other possible hosts for the beetle include ash and poplar trees.

According to the USDA, if the Asian longhorned Beetle becomes established in the United States, it has the potential to cause more damage than Dutch elm disease, chestnut blight and gypsy moths combined, destroying millions of acres of US hardwoods, including national forests and backyard trees.