Southern Perspective

The official blog of the Southern Group of State Foresters

David Jenkins

Responding to Asian Longhorned Beetle in South Carolina: A Lot of Moving Parts

December 21st, 2020
Forest Health Director
South Carolina Forestry Commission


Asian longhorned beetleThe Asian longhorned beetle, Anoplophora glabripennis native to China and the Korean Peninsula, was first reported in North America in New York in 1996. Adults are large, up to one and half inches long, and have striking smooth black elytra (hard wing covers) spangled with white spots. Adults lay their eggs in the bark of host trees, for example maple, true poplar, ash, and elm. The larva feeds under the bark for several weeks before burrowing into the heartwood. Infestation by multiple beetles eventually kills the tree. Prior to being reported in the South, Asian longhorned beetle has been sighted from New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Ontario, Canada; however, it has been successfully eradicated from Canada, Illinois, New Jersey and parts of New York, Massachusetts and Ohio, thanks to the efforts of the USDA-APHIS Asian Longhorned Beetle Eradication Program working closely with local agencies in those states.

Sounding the Alarm

In late May of this year a Charleston, SC homeowner contacted Clemson Extension concerning a potential invasive pest. A positive identification of the specimen as the Asian longhorned beetle began a suite of events. Clemson’s Department of Plant Industry (DPI) contacted the USDA-APHIS Asian Longhorned Beetle Eradication Program and within a week members of a team from Ohio were on the ground in Charleston conducting surveys. So far 21,414 host trees have been surveyed and 3,615 of these have been confirmed as infested by Asian longhorned beetle. State and Federal quarantines restricting the movement of host material have been imposed and include 58.62 square miles in the county of Charleston.

Each state is organized a little differently. In some southern states, my colleagues on the Southern Group of State Foresters' Forest Health Committee are charged with regulating an introduced invasive pest, such as the Asian longhorned beetle. In South Carolina, DPI is in charge of regulating pests, including enacting quarantines, so they coordinated survey and eradication efforts with the USDA-APHIS Asian Longhorned Beetle Eradication Program. The Forest Health Division of the South Carolina Forestry Commission (SCFC) has a close working-relationship with both DPI and USDA-APHIS, collaborating on the South Carolina Pest Awareness and Risk Assessment Committee (SC-PARA), a group of state and federal agencies that meet quarterly to discuss invasive species threatening South Carolina as well as to update members on regulatory changes.  This close relationship was an asset when Asian longhorned beetle was reported in South Carolina. Local USDA-APHIS employees knew who to reach out to at the federal level and the Forest Health Division of the South Carolina Forestry Commission provided volunteers to help with the survey and made sure local foresters had an opportunity to see damage up close.

Eradication Process

Eradication entails delimiting surveys and host removal. Having conducted this work in other parts of the country, the USDA-APHIS team are sensitive to and can anticipate many of the pitfalls of dealing with a public that may be wary of the federal government. In South Carolina they have relied heavily on locals in DPI and the South Carolina Forestry Commission to conduct outreach to local businesses and homeowners to prepare them for potentially traumatic eradication operations. It helps for locals to see the South Carolina Forestry Commission logo! Additionally, DPI and the South Carolina Forestry Commission play a crucial role identifying local stakeholders (e.g., loggers or hardwood mills) and other local resources that will play an important part in the eradication effort or that will be impacted by quarantine measures. Eradication will be a long process and will likely require collaboration between USDA-APHIS, Clemson DPI and the South Carolina Forestry Commission for years.

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