PRESS RELEASE: Exotic beetle pest of trees found in Kent
An outbreak of the Asian longhorn beetle (ALB), an exotic beetle pest which could have severe consequences for British trees, has been found in Kent the Food and Environment Research Agency confirmed today. This is the first time an outbreak of this pest has been found in the UK and it is being treated extremely seriously. Fera and the Forestry Commission are taking urgent steps to try to eradicate the outbreak before it has the chance to spread further afield.
Several larvae of the beetle have been found inside a poplar tree during a routine survey by the Forestry Commission at a site in the Paddock Wood area. Scientists from Forest Research had been monitoring an area around the site where an adult beetle had been found in 2009 and this is the first evidence of infestation. It is thought the beetles originated from wood packaging used to import stone from China at an adjacent industrial site.
The beetle is not native to the UK, and poses a serious threat to a very wide range of broadleaved trees and shrubs such as maple (including sycamore), elm, horse chestnut, willow, poplar, birch and some fruit trees.
Speaking about action to eradicate the outbreak Martin Ward, Head of Plant Health Policy at Fera said, “Our Plant Health Inspectors and the Forestry Commission are conducting a survey to determine the extent of this outbreak. They will be contacting all those within the survey area over the next few days and weeks with a view to inspecting all potential host trees for signs of the beetle. In the meantime we would urge members of the public, local businesses and landowners to be on the alert for the beetle and let us know if they find anything.
Adult beetles are large (around 20 - 40 mm long), shiny black with variable white markings. Their antennae are particularly distinctive being much longer than their bodies (up to twice the body length) and are black with white/light blue bands. The larvae of the beetle feed undetected on the inside of the plant and can kill it or leave it weakened and susceptible to further pest and disease damage.
The most obvious symptoms of ALB damage are the circular adult exit holes which are around 10 mm in diameter and are generally found in the main trunk and branches. The adult beetles usually emerge from these holes between May and October.
John Morgan, Head of Plant Health at the Forestry Commission, stated, “Until we have completed the initial survey work to determine the extent of the outbreak it’s difficult to say exactly what measures will need to be taken. However, we will need to remove any trees found to be infested and it is possible that we will need to remove potential host trees around the original site as a precautionary measure. Eradication measures to treat outbreaks in the US and Italy have resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of mature trees.”
If anyone suspects they have seen an Asian longhorn beetle, or evidence of its presence please contact the Fera Plant Health Helpline 0844 2480071 or email firstname.lastname@example.org If possible, the beetle should be caught and placed in a secure container so that an Inspector can collect it. The beetles are not harmful to humans, though they should be handled with caution as they can nip the skin.
Notes for Editors:
1. ALB facts:
· The beetle has been moving around the world hidden in timber imported from China, notably wood packaging material such as crates and dunnage.
· ALB (Anoplophora glabripennis) is a major pest in China where it has killed millions of poplar trees planted to prevent soil erosion. In the USA, $0.7billion has been spent on campaigns to eradicate this pest.
· A range of deciduous trees in the UK are/could be hosts, although all the interceptions in the UK to date have been found to come from wood packaging material.
The beetles are large (20 - 40mm long) and very distinctive being a shiny black colour with white markings. They also have very long black antennae ringed with pale blue or white markings. . In appearance, they are almost identical to Citrus longhorn beetle, (Anoplophora chinensis) another non-indigenous longhorn beetle that threatens trees in Britain. Fera has produced a video on the Citrus longhorn beetle which can be viewed at:
· The adult beetles scrape away a portion of bark on a host tree to lay their eggs just underneath. The lifecycle from egg to beetle is one to two years in Asia, possibly longer in the UK. Beetles emerge from spring onwards and will mate and lay eggs, after which they die. When the larvae hatch, they feed by boring in the main trunk and branches. This makes them difficult to detect.
· The most obvious symptoms of Asian longhorn beetle damage are the circular adult exit holes which are around 10 mm in diameter and are generally found in the main trunk and branches. Other signs which may be present but are much less obvious, include, piles of sawdust like droppings at the base of infested trees, scraped bark, sap bleeding from the sites where eggs have been laid and bark feeding damage on smaller branches and shoots.
· Not only do the larvae cause structural damage, this damage also leaves the tree susceptible to other diseases. Eventually this may lead to the death of the tree.
· Analysis of climate data by scientists at Fera suggests that most of England and Wales and some warmer coastal areas of Scotland are suitable for beetle establishment, but south-east England and the south coast are at greatest risk.
· More detailed information can be found on the following websites:
Forestry Commission: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/HCOU-4U4J45
· Images are available from Fera and the Forestry Commission.
2. The Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) is an Executive Agency of the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Its remit is to provide robust evidence, rigorous analysis and expert professional advice to government, international organisations and the private sector, in order to support and develop a sustainable and secure food chain, a healthy natural environment, and to protect the global community from biological and chemical risks.
3. The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible for protecting and expanding forests and woodlands and increasing their value to society and the environment.
Further information from:
Fera Media Officer:
Tel: 01904 462380
The Food and Environment Research Agency, Sand Hutton, York, YO41 1LZ
Forestry Commission Press Officer: Charlton Clark
Tel: 0131 314 6500 /
07810 181067 (mobile)
Forestry Commission, Silvan House,
231 Corstorphine Road, Edinburgh