This pest is destroying SC trees by the thousands. Now is the best time to fight back, USDA says

Clemson University/Provided
·3 min read

It’s beetle hunting season in South Carolina this month.

Specifically, the Asian longhorned beetle — an invasive pest that has been devastating trees in the Palmetto State in recent years. It turns out that August is the best time to spot the little critters, so the U.S. Department of Agriculture is encouraging residents to help identify and eradicate them from South Carolina.

According to the USDA, residents in South Carolina, particularly those in Charleston and Dorchester counties, should check their trees for Asian longhorned beetles and the damage they cause.

August is a critical time to look for the insect since it’s when people are most likely to see adult beetles.

“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,” Josie Ryan, APHIS’ National Operations Manager for the ALB Eradication Program, said in a Monday press release. “The sooner we know where the insect is, the sooner we can stop its spread.”

The beetle was most recently found in South Carolina when a homeowner reported spotting one in their backyard in 2020, which lead the USDA and Clemson University’s Department of Plant Industry to discover an active infestation.

The Asian longhorned beetle is a wood-boring insect that attacks 12 types of hardwood trees in North America, including maples, elms, buckeyes, birches and willows. Infested trees do not recover and eventually die.

In its larval stage, the beetle feeds inside tree trucks and branches, creating tunnels. Adults later chew their way out in the warmer months, leaving small round exit holes.

How to identify an adult Asian longhorned beetle

  • A shiny black body with white spots that is about 1” to 1 1/2” long.

  • Black and white antennae that are longer than the insect’s body.

  • Six legs and feet that can appear bluish in color.

Signs that a tree might be infested

  • Round exit holes in tree trunks and branches about the size of a dime or smaller.

  • Egg sites that are shallow, oval or round wounds in the bark where sap might weep.

  • Sawdust-like material called frass found on the ground around the tree or on the branches.

  • Branches or limbs falling from an otherwise healthy-looking tree.

How you can help

  • If you think you found a beetle or tree damage, report it by calling the ALB hotline at 1-866-702-9938 or submitting an online report at www.AsianLonghornedBeetle.com. 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. Then report it.

  • If you live in an Asian longhorned beetle quarantine area, please keep the tree-killing pest from spreading. Follow state and federal laws, which restrict the movement of woody material and untreated firewood that could be infested.

  • It is possible to eradicate the beetle. USDA and its partners eradicated the insect from Illinois, Boston, Massachusetts, New Jersey and portions of New York and Ohio.

For more information about the the beetle and the eradication efforts, visit www.AsianLonghornedBeetle.com. For local inquiries or to speak to your USDA State Plant Health Director, call 1-866-702-9938.