Tree health authorities have called on the public to look out for two invasive species of beetle, which could damage a wide range of trees and shrubs if they become established in the UK.
The Asian longhorn beetle and the citrus longhorn beetle can weaken and eventually kill severely infected trees. The Asian longhorn beetle is currently one of the most destructive non-native insects in the United States, causing an estimated $3.5 billion in damages each year.
It is suspected the Asian longhorn entered the UK through imported goods in wooden packaging from countries such as China, Japan and Korea, whilst the citrus longhorn may have arrived via exotic garden plants.
Martin Ward, the UK Government’s Chief Plant Health Officer, said: “The public can really help us at this time of year by looking out for these two potentially serious beetle pests. They thrive in climates similar to ours, and their establishment could result in losses of trees from a wide range of species.”
The earlier an outbreak is detected, the greater the chances of a successful response and the smaller the area over which host trees must be removed to achieve eradication. Last year an outbreak of Asian longhorn beetles was successfully eradicated in Kent.
August and September will be the best time to spot the beetles as they emerge from trunks and branches, spread to other trees, and lay eggs.
HOW TO HELP
As adults the two species both have large, black bodies with variable white markings. The title ‘longhorn’ refers to their distinctive antennae, which can be up to twice as long as their bodies and are black with white or light blue bands. Larvae exit holes in trees may indicate a beetle infestation.
If you find a beetle, isolate them if possible (preferably in a sealed glass jar) and contact the Plant Health & Seeds Inspectorate by telephoning 01904 465625 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also report sightings using the Forestry Commission’s ‘Tree Alert’ app or online at www.forestry.gov.uk/asianlonghornbeetle.
The beetles are not harmful to humans, but should be handled with care because they can inflict an uncomfortable nip when handled.