Pest business

Invasive beetle attacks thousands of Long Island trees

An invasive beetle is attacking trees in central Long Island by the thousands, officials said.

Now, residents of Nassau and Suffolk counties are urged to check their trees for the Asian longhorned beetle and the damage it is causing, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Experts say August is a critical time to look for the wood-eating insect because that’s when people are most likely to spot the adult beetle.

“Checking trees for the pest and the damage it causes is how you can help us eliminate the beetle from the United States and protect more trees,” said Josie Ryan, national operations manager for the ‘APHIS for the ALB Eradication Program, in a statement. “The sooner we know where the insect is, the sooner we can stop its spread.”

The USDA and its partners are working to eradicate the tree killer beetle. ALB is an invasive wood-boring beetle that attacks 12 types of hardwoods in North America, including maples, elms, horse chestnuts, birches and willows.

Infested trees do not recover and eventually die, according to the USDA. Infested trees also become safety hazards since branches can fall and trees can fall, especially during storms. In the larval stage, the insect feeds inside the trunks and branches of trees, creating tunnels as it feeds, then the adults work their way through during the warmer months, leaving holes exit round about 3/4 inch.

The adult ALB has distinctive markings: a shiny black body with white spots about 1 inch to 1 1/2 inches long. It has black and white antennae that are longer than the insect’s body, and six legs and feet that can appear bluish in color.

USDA Photo

Signs that a tree might be infested include round exit holes in the trunks and branches of trees the size of a penny or less. Additional signs include egg sites which are shallow, oval or round wounds in the bark where sap can seep out. There may be sawdust-like materials called droppings found on the ground around the tree or on the branches. And there may be branches or limbs falling from an otherwise healthy tree.

If you believe you have found a beetle or damaged tree, report it by calling the ALB hotline at 1-866-702-9938 or by submitting a report online at Try to photograph the ALB or tree damage. If you can, capture the beetle in a durable container and freeze it, which helps preserve the insect for identification. So report it.

If you live in an ALB quarantine zone, officials say you can prevent the spread of the tree-killing pest by following state and federal laws, which restrict the movement of woody materials and untreated firewood that could be infested.

Experts say it is possible to eradicate ALB. The USDA and its partners have eradicated the insect from Illinois, Boston, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and parts of New York and Ohio.

For local inquiries or to speak with a USDA State Plant Health Director, call 1-866-702-9938.