The state Department of Environmental Conservation is asking for help from residents, especially pool owners, in identifying an invasive beetle responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of trees across the country.
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos announced Friday the beginning of the department’s annual Asian Longhorned Beetle Pool Survey, which seeks to identify the invasive species before it damages forests and other trees.
The program asks pool owners to routinely check their pool filters for any insects that resemble the beetle and send photographs to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail the actual insects to the DEC’s Forest Health Lab.
Letters should be addressed Attn: Jessica Cancelliere, 108 Game Farm Road, Delmar, NY 12054.
Anyone who doesn’t own a pool can still help with photos or samples should they find the beetle.
The beetles are approximately 1.5 inches long, are black with white spots and have long, black and white antennae that can grow up to twice as long as their body. The bugs also hold a set of wings beneath their carapaces.
They also leave several distinctive signs, namely perfectly round holes about the size of a dime they make in branches and tree trunks as well as sawdust-like material they leave on branches and around trees.
“The majority of invasive forest pest infestations are found and reported by members of the public, making citizen science a vital component for protecting our urban and rural forests,” Seggos said in a release. “Pool monitoring offers a simple, economical approach to surveying for Asian Longhorned Beetles and gives the public a chance to take an active role in protecting the trees in their yards and communities.”
The beetles bore their way through hardwoods, especially its preferred host of maple trees, to lay their eggs. Once hatched, the larva feed on the living tissue inside the tree before further damaging it when they exit. Continued attacks by the insects can eventually kill the trees.
To help stop the spread of the Asian Longhorned beetle, as well as other invasives like the Emerald Ash Borer beetle, the state recommends citizens adhere to the regulation limiting the transportation of untreated firewood more than 50 miles.
Native to China and Korea, the beetles were first found in New York in 1996 after likely hitching a ride from China on wooden packing material that came to the New York Harbor.
If you think you have spotted one of the beetles, take pictures of infestation signs like the holes in trees or sawdust, note the location with specifics like intersecting roads, landmarks or even GPS coordinates easily obtained with most smartphones.
In addition to contacting the DEC Forest Health bureau, the agency also recommends contacting your local Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Managemnt (PRISM), which in the case of Cayuga County and the Finger Lakes is the FL-PRISM hosted at Hobart and William Smith Colleges and found online at Fingerlakesinvasives.org.