How Did The Asian Longhorned Beetle Get To America?

There is a new enemy that is terrorizing America – a bite-sized insect that can take down entire trees! Here’s how the Asian Longhorned Beetle found its way here, and why it is so dangerous.

“Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

When Lazarus wrote these words, little did he know that the Asian Longhorn Beetle would also one day heed the call!

Hide your trees and do your best to keep them from the Asian Longhorned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis).

This wood-boring beetle arrived in America in the 90s and has since wreaked absolute havoc on hardwood trees like oak, teak, and mahogany.

But how did it get here, and why is the government so afraid of this tiny bug? Let’s find out.

Where Is The Asian Longhorn Beetle From?

The shiny black adult beetle with some irregularly shaped white spots and rather long antennae (hence the name longhorn) on its body is native to China and Korea, both Asian countries.

It is also present in other parts of Asia, such as Japan and the Indian subcontinent.

It devoured numerous species of trees, such as poplars, sugar maples, elms, and mulberries, in its homeland. In America, it has found a whole new set of trees to take over.

Where Was It Found in the US?

In the United States, this beetle first came to be known when it was found quite literally taking the life out of ornamental trees in major urban centers like Chicago and New York City.

Since 1996, detections of this exotic species have been made across most states located in the Northeast United States and California.

The Asian Longhorned Beetle was again discovered in Chicago in 1998 and in Jersey City, NJ, in 2002. It made its way to Middlesex and Union counties, New Jersey, in 2004.

Two years later, the insect had already been found touring Staten Island and Prall’s island in the Hudson River.

Fast forward two years and the Asian longhorned beetle reached Worcester and the urban and rural forests of Massachusetts too. In 2011, the beetle was yet again found in Tate Township, Ohio.

In 2020, these beetles were detected in South Carolina.

How Did The Asian Longhorn Beetle Become Invasive?

The beetle is originally found in Asian countries such as Korea and China.

But these wood-hollowing insects traveled from these countries to America by conveniently boarding cargo shipments from China.

They snuck into wood pallets and wood packing materials in these shipments and found their way into the United States.

Unfortunately, the wood used for these boxes and packaging material was untreated, which made it easy for the bugs to hide in them.

In a couple of years, their presence had spread throughout North America like an uncontrollable wildfire.

Why Is There So Much Fuss About This Species?

The Asian longhorned beetle is an Asian native, and yet, it has successfully established itself in America. It has firmly put its legs into the major cities of the continent and refuses to budge.

The larvae of the female beetles devour the wood of trees, their stems, branches, and roots.

They create long galleries inside the tree that eventually snuff out its life. These tunnels hollow the tree out from the inside, leaving nothing but a shell that even a slow wind can take down.

From egg to adult, its life stages take one to three years. Adult beetles come out from trunks and branches by eating their way out and leaving behind enormous, circular holes (0.2-0.5 inches in diameter).

As the insect is new to America, nature has not evolved any natural predators for it here.

The trees in America are ill-prepared to adapt and survive against this species. The damage caused to trees can cause branches to break off or the foundation of trees to give way and fall on unsuspecting pedestrians and cars nearby.

It has become an issue of public security, and despite the hard work put in by many scientists, agencies, and the USDA forest service, the efforts are still on.

The only solution, for now, is to chop off the infested trees.

How Did The Asian Longhorned Beetle Get To America

Economic Impact of Its Infestation

Street and backyard trees have been severely affected by these beetles.

With no proper solution in sight (except perhaps prevention), the infested trees have been removed, destroyed, or replaced at whopping prices (around $100 per infestation).

For example, in New York, damage to maple trees can lead to a catastrophic impact on the maple syrup industry, leading to billions of dollars in damages.

If these beetles are allowed to expand beyond their current range into national forests, it could have dire consequences for the whole economy since they could hollow out millions of acres of hardwood trees.

With the cumulative negative impact on the export of various hardwood-made products and eradication and containment costs, these beetles could single-handedly deliver a mighty blow to the American economy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where did the Asian long-horned beetle come from

The long-horned beetle is an exotic species commonly found in Asian countries like China, Korea, and Japan.
It has easily acclimated itself to the American weather and continues to establish itself in the major cities of the continent.
Efforts are on to find a way to eradicate this pest, or at least contain the menace to the cities where it has established itself.

How did the Asian longhorned beetle get to California?

It all started with unchecked wooden cargo shipments from China. These beetles bored holes inside the untreated wooden packing materials and reached the shores of America safely.
Initially, they were discovered in New York City, but soon they were detected in California too, and they are now present in many urban centers.

How does the Asian longhorned beetle travel?

The Asian longhorn beetle usually spends its entire life inside the host tree, which it infests. However, it does have wings in its adult stage and can fly a good distance if needed.
Flying or else infesting wood packing materials are the two ways through which it has been spreading across America.

Can long-horned beetles fly?

Yes, the Asian longhorned beetle can fly up to 8.5 miles if it is well-fed and strong. Their average flight distance, however, is around 1.4 miles.
This is another major problem why we are not able to stop this insect from spreading quickly and are ending up having to destroy entire trees to contain it.

Wrap Up

The Asian Longhorned Beetle is a wanderlust at heart. America, for sure, is ticked off its bucket list. Who can blame these beetles for wanting to live the American Dream?

These insects spell doom for trees and, for now, are seemingly invincible. When will a tangible solution come up? When will our trees be free of these pests? The answers are not yet known.

But hopefully, their reign of terror will soon be over.

Reader Emails

Asian longhorned beetles have been a subject of excitement among bug lovers ever since their destructive capabilities came to be known in America.

There have been relatively few sightings of these beetles here, but we are sharing some pics from our readers.

Letter 1 – Asian Longhorned Beetle or Starry Sky Beetle in Japan

 

Name our beetle in Japan? Hi! We are living in Kawatana, Japan on Kyushu island. This beetle was on our front porch on the 4th of July. He was approximately 2 1/2 inches long. We’d love to identify him! We are seeing so many new insects since we’ve been here. I have used your site to identify ONE of the many types of centipedes we have here, the house centipede. Hopefully I can catch a few more on camera to send to you. They move quickly though! …Thanks for your help! Rachel Hi Rachel, We are very happy your report is coming to us from Japan and not from the U.S. This is an Asian Longhorned Beetle or Starry Sky Beetle, Anoplophora glabripennis. Now that you know that, you will be able to find much information online including Wikipedia which reports the Asian Longhorned Beetle, which is called the Sky Oxen in China: “is native to China and other areas of eastern Asia, where it causes widespread mortality of poplar ,willow ,elm , and maple trees.” The Amazing Insects site reports: “Asian longhorned beetles is widely distributed in China, and in Japan and Korea Once introduced into an area, people unintentionally spread the beetle by cutting or trimming an infested tree and moving the wood elsewhere. To date, the Asian longhorned beetle has been found at 26 scattered warehouse and residential sites in 14 States around the country, including Cincinnati, Ohio. The only Asian longhorned beetle infestations of living trees are at Brooklyn, NY, Amityville, NY, and three neighborhoods in the Chicago, IL area.” The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Forest Site reports: “The Asian Longhorned Beetle, also known as the Asian Cerambycid Beetle, was first discovered in the United States in 1996, when it was found attacking maple and horsechestnut trees in New York City. Recently, three Chicago area infestations have also been detected, heightening concern among forest health professionals about the threat posed by this non-native pest. This beetle, known by the scientific name Anoplophora glabripennis, is native to Japan, Korea, and southern China. In Ohio, the insect has been found associated with solid wood packing and crating materials, however, an infestation of living host trees has never been detected in the state. ” If our readership sees this beetle in the U.S. it should be reported to the local office of the US Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service or USDA APHIS.

Letter 2 – Asian Longhorned Beetle or related species from Hong Kong

 

Bug from Hong Kong Tai po Location: Tai Po, Hong Kong July 10, 2011 3:24 pm Hi my uncle found this in his house, and i wanted to know what this was 🙂 Signature: Nathan W
Asian Longhorned Beetle
Hi Nathan, This is the Asian Longhorned Beetle, Anoplophora glabripennis, also known as the Starry Sky Beetle.  The Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health website has a profile on this species which indicates:  “Asian longhorned beetle is native to China and other nearby Pacific Rim countries. It was introduced in Chicago, Illinois and the New York City area through solid wood packing material from China. Domestically, movement of infested tree-based materials, including logs and firewood, can easily spread this insect. It is known to attack at least 18 species of hardwood trees including maple, birch, horse chestnut, poplar, willow, elm, ash, and black locust. Adult females chew out a place to lay their eggs forming oval to round, darkened wounds in the bark. Eggs are laid singly and they secrete a substance that hardens over and protects the egg. Larvae develop out of the eggs and chew banana-shaped galleries into the heartwood, on which they will feed in during fall and winter. The pale-yellow larvae are worm-like, elongate, and cylindrical with a varied texture on the underside; the eighth segment of the abdomen has a protruding structure. Pupae are off-white, 1 to 1 1/4 inch long and 1/3 of an inch wide. Adults emerge during the spring through large round holes (3/8″ diameter) that may occur anywhere on the tree including branches, trunk, and exposed roots. These exit holes can number in the thousands per tree. Adult beetles 1 to 1 1/2 inches long, shiny-black with white spots. They have black-and-white banded antennae that are at least as long as their bodies. The upper sections of the legs of the adults are whitish-blue. Asian longhorned beetle can be distinguished from related species, such as citrus longhorned beetle, by the markings on the wing covers and the pattern of the antennae. Asian longhorned beetles require between one to three years to reach maturity.”  It is not considered an Invasive Exotic species in Hong Kong. An Alternate Opinion Are you sure that’s not a different Anoplophora species, like A. chinensis (the citrus longhorn you refer to in the comments)? A. chinensis has a white scutellum and rough pitting at the top of the elytra, vs. completely glabrous wing covers and black scutellum on ALB. The angle’s not good but I swear I see some pitting, plus I am pretty sure the scutellum’s white in that photo. There may be addition species in the genus in their native range that I am not familiar with, too. (Note my attached image is off the net, wouldn’t let me submit this without an image.) Signature: Jenn Forman Orth Dear Jenn, Thanks for your alternate opinion.  We are not certain that we have the species correct.  We could not locate the image you attached online, so we are linking to an Invasive Species website with a photo of the Citrus Longhorn.

Letter 3 – Probably White Spotted Sawyer, NOT Asian Longhorned Beetle

 

Subject: Aisan Longhorn beetle? Location: Ontario, Canada June 19, 2013 2:36 pm Just a couple of days ago I found this bug on my deck. I know southern Ontario has been battling with the Aisan longhorn beetle for about 10 years… I am waiting for a call back from the Canadian food inspection agency who has been dealing with the problem bugs… However I found that in April of this year it was announced they had finally erraticated the bug. I hope this isn’t one but I’d like to know if it is or isn’t and if it isn’t what kind is it? Thank you in advance Signature: Cassandra Nieves
Asian Longhorned Beetle or Not???
Asian Longhorned Beetle or Not???
Dear Cassandra, Your beetle resembles an Asian Longhorned Beetle, but we cannot say for certain if it is an invasive species or a native species in the same family.  We wish your photograph had more detail.  The elytra do appear to have white spots on a black background and the antennae do appear to be striped black and white.  Perhaps one of our readers will be able to provide conclusive information on the identity of the Longhorned Beetle in your photo.  Please let us know what the Canadian authorities have to say.

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    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

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11 thoughts on “How Did The Asian Longhorned Beetle Get To America?”

  1. I found one of these as well today. According to the “National Wildlife Federation’s Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America”, it looks like a “White Spotted Sawyer”. The Asian longhorn Beetle has white stripes on the Antennae and this guy doesn’t. Not sure how to post a picture on this site yet but when I figure it out, I will.

    Oh, and I live in Ottawa as well. It was just sitting on the driveway getting some sun. He/she flies but didn’t feel like it until I caught it.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment. The angle on the photo submitted did not permit seeing the scutellum which would have helped us identify a White Spotted Sawyer. It is also difficult to see the details on the antennae. We do tend to agree with you that this is more likely a member of the genus Monochamus which includes the White Spotted Sawyer.

      Reply
  2. I found one of these as well today. According to the “National Wildlife Federation’s Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America”, it looks like a “White Spotted Sawyer”. The Asian longhorn Beetle has white stripes on the Antennae and this guy doesn’t. Not sure how to post a picture on this site yet but when I figure it out, I will.

    Oh, and I live in Ottawa as well. It was just sitting on the driveway getting some sun. He/she flies but didn’t feel like it until I caught it.

    Reply
  3. Hi,

    Great website! I was at the Lowes Garden center in Maryland approx 20min from the USDA in Beltsville. A Lowes employee stated that there were Chinese beetle everywhere above the garden center. A few of the beetles fell from the sky and we’re dead on the pavement of the garden center. The beetles were black approx 1 inch in length. Should something like this be reported?

    Thank You In Advance for the advice !

    Reply
  4. Hi,

    Great website! I was at the Lowes Garden center in Maryland approx 20min from the USDA in Beltsville. A Lowes employee stated that there were Chinese beetle everywhere above the garden center. A few of the beetles fell from the sky and we’re dead on the pavement of the garden center. The beetles were black approx 1 inch in length. Should something like this be reported?

    Thank You In Advance for the advice !

    Reply
  5. Hi,

    I recently spotted this…thing, outside of my house – Sai Kung County Park. I think it might be a species of Long Horn Beetle, but that’s just a guess

    I have photos and would love to send them them to you – thanks

    Reply
  6. Hi,

    I recently spotted this…thing, outside of my house – Sai Kung County Park. I think it might be a species of Long Horn Beetle, but that’s just a guess

    I have photos and would love to send them them to you – thanks

    Reply

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