Introduction and Spread of Asian Long-Horned Beetle Anoplophora Glabripennis

Introduction and Spread of Asian Long-Horned Beetle Anoplophora Glabripennis

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Executive Summary

The Asian Long-Horned Beetle (ALB) is a notorious hardwood pest that is not native to the United States. Originating from China and Korea, ALB invaded the United States through international trade conduits as was first detected in the country in 1996. The country has struggled with various initiatives, achieving different levels of effectiveness and contending with numerous challenges as well. Using the absent, localized, spreading, and pervasive phases of pest invasion, the policies addressing the ALB threat are discussed and their effectiveness assessed. Border surveillance to identify the pest, especially in wood packaging material (WPM), which is the main conduit of transportation of this pest, is of utmost importance. Moreover, the role played by the federal agencies, like the USDA, APHIS and CPB is instrumental in ensuring that the policies are implemented successfully. So far, the policies have managed to eradicate the pest in Illinois and New York, with New Jersey and other adjacent states registering varying levels of efficacy. Ultimately, a combination of laws, management strategies and public awareness should be included in the existing policies to mitigate against the pest.

Table of Contents

Contents                                                                                                                            page

Executive Summary. 2

Introduction. 4

Phases of invasion. 5

Absent Phase. 7

Localized Phase. 8

Spreading Phase. 10

Pervasive Phase. 11

Conclusion. 12

References. 14

Introduction and Spread of Asian Long-Horned Beetle Anoplophora Glabripennis


The Asian longhorn beetle (ALB), Anoplophora glabripennis, is a notorious invasive wood pest known to impact forests adversely. The Asian longhorn beetle (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae) is a polyphagous wood borer that feeds on a variety of deciduous trees (Hull-Sanders, Pepper, Davis, & Trotter III, 2017). Originating from China and Korea, Asian longhorn beetle is suspected to have been introduced into the United States through the solid wood-packing materials used in packaging imported goods. Therefore, international trade has facilitated the introduction of the Asian longhorn beetle into the United States, with initial detection being reported in New York in 1996 (Meng, Hoover, & Keena, 2015). Subsequently, beetle infestations were reported in New York, Illinois, and New Jersey, in 1996, 1998, and 2002, respectively, which are points of entry for imported commodities (Hull-Sanders, Pepper, Davis, & Trotter III, 2017). The detection of the beetle in Massachusetts and Ohio in 2008 and 2011, respectively, is attributed to movement of imported goods inland, away from the sea-ports. Therefore, the beetle is prevalent in north-eastern United States and the Great Lakes region, which are close to high density import ports of entry (Hudgins, Liebhold, & Leung, 2017). This region has suitable host trees that facilitate the establishment of the pest.  

The unique characteristics of the Asian longhorn beetle qualify it as an invasive alien species (IAS) that can cause unprecedented damage to forest and urban hardwood trees. The beetle specifically prefers maples along with other tree species of the Ulmus, Salix, Populous and Acer genera, which are found in forests and are planted along urban areas (Dodds & Orwig, 2011; Meng, Hoover, & Keena, 2015). Apart from its ability to adapt to new environments and establish pervasively, the beetle’s larvae take between 1 and 2 years to develop inside the heartwood of trees, making their transportation undetectable (Javal, et al., 2019, Meng, Hoover, & Keena, 2015). This paper discusses the absent, localized, spreading, and pervasive phases of the beetles’ establishment and the associated policies that would lessen the beetles’ impact on trees and forest biomass.

Phases of invasion

The Asian longhorn beetle invasion, like that of any other invasive species, proceeds along the absent, localized, spreading, and pervasive phases. Each of these phases are accompanied by mitigation policies and cost implications to the involved actors and agencies. Figure 1 presents a summary of the spread pattern of the Asian longhorn beetle.

Figure 1. Pattern of spread of the Asian Long-Horned Beetle


Although the Asian Long-Horned Beetle has already been introduced into the United States, there are still many areas in the country where the pest has not been detected. In other areas, the pest has been detected but has not become established, while in others, the beetle has reached pervasive proportions. The four stages of invasion demarcate the different policy approaches and financial resources that would be needed to contain the beetle and prevent it from advancing from one stage to another.  

Moreover, the introduction of the Asian Long-Horned Beetle as a nonnative insect in the United States threatens the growth of native trees and the forest biomass by introducing unprecedented morbidity and mortality of the targeted tree species. Figure 2 illustrated the consequences of an Asian Long-Horned Beetle invasion on the growth of native trees and sustainability of the forest biomass because increased morbidity and mortality of the targeted tree species.

Figure 2. Influence of a nonnative insect invasion on the native trees and forest biomass

According to figure 2, the Asian Long-Horned Beetle injures the health of trees and causes their death. If the invasion is not arrested effectively, the long term effects would be the decimation of particular targeted native tree species, which in turn, would reduce the forest biomass. However, policies targeting the nonnative insect can return the ecological balance in the forest biomass and save the tree species that are targeted by the pest. 

Absent Phase

The absent or arrival phase is the period preceding the introduction of the invasive nonnative pest. In this case, this phase would be time before the Asian Long-Horned Beetle is introduced to the trees in a given area, which in the United States, comprises of many areas in the western end of the country.

The appropriate policies for this phase include those that influence the pre-importation process such as the identification of new pest threats from foreign countries, and the inspection and treatment of wooden packages entering the country. Based on figure 2, the preventative interventions block the entry of the Asian Long-Horned Beetle into the forest ecosystem and biomass, thus preserving their natural forest balance. Already, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which is an agency of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has international programs that prevent the introduction of new pests into the United States (Gandhi, Campbell, & Abrams, 2019). This agency has policies, such as Quarantine 37, that require live plants to be certified as clean stocks before being allowed to enter the United States (Lovett, et al., 2016).  However, Asian Long-Horned Beetle is transported through wood packaging material (WPM) because it attacks mature trees rather than saplings. In this regard, the U. S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) inspect WPMs for pests at the ports of entry, in accordance to The International Phytosanitary Standard, dubbed the Integrated Measures for Plants for Planting No. 15 (ISPM-15), which is a global standard used by the USDA to regulate and clear saplings from foreign countries (Lovett, et al., 2016). This standard requires the fumigation of WPMs with methyl bromide and sterilization before being certified for international transportation. Also, APHIS organizes the New Pest Advisory Groups to develop protocols for identifying and responding to new pests from abroad (Lovett, et al., 2016). The penalty for noncompliance includes fines and rejection of shipments. The effectiveness of these policies is limited by exporting countries failing to follow treatment protocols, ISPM stamps being placed fraudulently on WPMs, inadequate treatment of WPMs and persistence of pests in WPMs after treatment (Lovett, et al., 2016). As such, the effectiveness of ISPM-15 is expected to reduce pest importation by between 36% and 52% by 2050, thus requiring novel approaches.

The possible policy improvements include the use of packaging materials other than WPMs. The International Plant Protection Convention already provides International Trade Procedures that could govern the use of alternative materials. The effectiveness of this policy depends of the global implementation of new packaging standards through international law. The modification and reinvention of the ISPM is a feasible alternative.      

The bearers of the cost of implementing the policies at this stage include the federal government and importers. The federal government bears the cost of developing policies and implementing them through its agencies, such as the USDA, CPB and APHIS. The government also bears the cost of developing new packaging standards and ensuring that they conform to the International Plant Protection Convention. Besides, the government and importers bear the cost of new detection technologies that would process large volumes of imports efficiently. Trained dogs, sound and smell detection devices, and chemical analyses are costly tools that can augment the visual inspection used at the points-of-entry into the United States.   

Localized Phase

In the localized or establishment phase, the Asian Long-Horned Beetle is prevalent in a local area, with its population being larger than a few insects detected in imported cargo. In other words, the pests have entered some trees in the local area. Therefore, the area occupied by the Asian Long-Horned Beetle is minimal although the pest is considered as being established in the affected area. According to figure 2, the localized phase considers that the Asian Long-Horned Beetle has already infested some trees in a confined local area close to the point of pest introduction. Although the pest is causing tree morbidity and mortality, these effects are not significant enough to affect the forest biomass or the growth of native trees.

Policies for reducing impact at this stage focus cordoning off the infected area though local quarantines, eradicating the pests and monitoring the invasion to prevent them from becoming established. In the United States, surveillance is fragmented across various independent programs. The Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey (CAPS) surveils wood-borers, such as the Asian Long-Horned Beetle, as part of the National Woodborer/Bark Beetle Survey program under APHIS (Lovett, et al., 2016). Similarly, the USDA Forest Service, implements the surveillance policy through the Early Detection Rapid Response program, which monitors vulnerable sites, like those around warehouses and importers stores, using beetle traps. The same agency administers a surveillance protocol in urban areas through its Urban Forest Health Monitoring program. Public awareness is crucial in ensuring that the public is sufficiently aware of the infection signs to look out for and the potential damage from ALB (Yemshanov, et al., 2017). New Zealand has been particularly successful with its surveillance policy at its ports of entry (Liebhold, et al., 2016). The United States should have a similar comprehensive nationwide surveillance policy to prevent the entry of invasive pests. 

However, the random occurrence of the beetle, detection difficulties for the beetle because it spends a significant portion of the lifecycle embedded in trees and the inability to trap the beetles using traps challenge the surveillance of the Asian Long-Horned Beetle (Lovett, et al., 2016). Moreover, the country does not have a comprehensive national surveillance policy for forest pests. As such, the effective surveillance of the Asian Long-Horned Beetle is suboptimal.

The federal government bears the most of the surveillance cost, although the importers and local authorities expend finances in their local jurisdictions. The federal government funds surveillance though the Commodity Credit Corporation (Lovett, et al., 2016). Unfortunately, these funds are often inadequate for the onerous inspection task at all point of entry into the country.  

Spreading Phase

The spreading phase is characterized by the movement of the Asian Long-Horned Beetle from its initial point of detection to other regions in the country. For instance, the manifestation of the pest beyond state borders would be considered as the spreading phase. The area occupied by the Asian Long-Horned Beetle is much larger than that in the localized phase, covering an entire state. 

Policies for reducing the impact of this phase target the slowing down of the spread and imposition of state-wide quarantines. The USDA issues quarantine policies that apply state-wide and rules that target specific counties in the states. For instance, the ALB Regulations: 7 CFR 301.51 is a set of rules defining which states are quarantined in the country (USDA, 2016). The USDA also updates the ALB regulations, by identifying which parts of a state are exempted from the quarantine rules. These regulations restrict the movement of hardwood firewood and nursery stocks unless they are accompanied by approved permits and certificated of inspection under the Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) program (USDA, 2016). Moreover, the inspected wood materials have to be chipped to dimensions not bigger than 1 inch before transportation outside the quarantined area. The rules target targets various handlers of wood materials, such as nurseries, firewood dealers, tree pruning and removal firms, sanitation workers, pallet distributors and landscapers (USDA, 2016). These regulations are updated regularly as the ALB prevalence subsides.

These policies interrupt the balancing cycle between the infested and dead frees from the biomass/native tree growth loop by protecting the uninfected forests in neighboring states and the rest of the country. However, these policies are effective only the regulations are not circumvented by unscrupulous and uninformed firms, dealers and individuals. The policing of compliance to these regulations remains a significant challenge to curtailing the spread of the ALBs.

The federal government through the USDA and APHIS shoulders most of the cost of quarantine. Stakeholders, such as the state and local governments, wood merchants and landowners contribute to the quarantine cost through raising awareness, monitoring movement of hardwood materials, and absorbing the economic loses from diminished business. However, fragmented financial sources limit the effectiveness of the policies.   

Pervasive Phase

The pervasive phase denotes the stage when the pest is prevalent across the country. At this stage, the Asian Long-Horned Beetle would be threatening the trees and forest biomass in the country. Besides, the mitigation measures for preventing the spread of the invasive species would have failed for the pest to be that pervasive. In this phase, the forest biomass and the growth of the native tree species are severely affected because the reinforcing and balancing loops illustrated in figure 2 are no longer effective. In other words, the morbidity and mortality of the targeted trees is too high to maintain the regeneration equilibrium. 

The policies in this phase would focus on saving the forests in the country. Also, the policies would facilitate implementing adaptation measures, which might include, in the extreme case, eradicating the host species of trees that are targeted by the pest. Also, replacing the targeted host trees with non-target tree species helps maintain the urban aesthetics and shade in open spaces. For instance, the Plant Protection Act mandates USDA and APHIS to uproot and destroy all infected trees and target trees around the infected area. The Act also mandates the two agencies to identify the non-target tree species that can be plated to replace the deforested area (USDA, 2010). The Strategic Plan for Eradication of ALB, dubbed the ALB Cooperative Eradication Strategic Plan, was implemented in Illinois and New York in 2000, after the declaration of an ALB emergency by the Secretary of Agriculture in the previous year (Stefan, Markham, Benjamin, & Coath, 2014). The eradication approach succeeded in making Chicago beetle free by 2003. Spraying of trees located within 800 meters of those infested trees was done alongside the removal of the infected trees (Liebhold, et al., 2016). The eradication approach has been used in adjacent states such as New York and New Jersey, with impressive success levels.

Although the eradication strategy was effective, removal and spraying of trees in urban areas was controversial because of the landscaping and health implications. The viability of the eradication approach is often endangered by the numerous litigations against aerial spraying in urban places due to the potential health hazards. Besides, eradication needs to be accompanied by comprehensive surveillance to ensure that the ALB is eradicated completely.   

 The cost of implementing these policies would be borne my all the major stakeholders, including the government at the federal, state and local levels, the private landowners, and the scientific community. For instance, USDA and APHIS spent $49 million to implement the ALB Cooperative Eradication Strategic Plan (Stefan, Markham, Benjamin, & Coath, 2014). Moreover, landscapers, local municipalities and state governments spend financial resources to uproot and replace the infected trees. However, the cost of eradication often overweighs that of surveillance. As such, eradication is reserved as a last resort when all other alternatives have failed.   


The Asian longhorn beetle has threatened the forest cover in the United States, the aesthetics and shade in open public spaces and the business of wood merchants in the country. Although the federal government responded adequately to arrest this invasive and destructive tree pest, it spend a significant amount of money to attend to the absent, localized, spreading, and pervasive phases of the ALB infestation. The USDA and APHIS spearheads the intervention programs at all invasion stages, as mandated by the federal and international laws. Moreover, the state governments implement the quarantine regulations in conjunction with the federal agencies. The federal and state policies provide guidelines for inspecting, surveilling, quarantining and eradicating of the tree pest and its host trees. However, noncompliance by wood dealers and handlers is pervasive, as the punitive measures are often in form of fines. Nonetheless, the federal government and its agencies should partner with other stakeholders in research and technology to create effective pest detection, surveillance and eradication methods that are cost effective and less detrimental to the forest biomass. Therefore effective policies for addressing ALB should combine legislations at the federal and state levels, comprehensive and targeted pest management strategies and intensive public awareness campaigns.   


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