Asian longhorned beetle

In September 2003, adult Asian longhorned beetles (Anoplophora glabripennis, Motschulsky) were discovered at the city limits of Vaughan and Toronto, Ontario. This insect, native to China and the Korean Peninsula, is believed to have arrived in North America in solid wood packaging materials such as crates and pallets.

Asian longhorned beetle

Since 1982, it has been intercepted on numerous occasions by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the Canada Border Services Agency at Canadian ports of entry and in warehouses.

The decision to eradicate

Attacks by the Asian longhorned beetle have been reported on numerous species of hardwoods in North America and Europe. In Canada, these have mainly been healthy trees such as maple, poplar, birch, willow and elm.

Because this beetle could kill trees and had no known natural enemies in this country, it represented a serious threat to Canada’s natural forests. It had the potential to lead to widespread tree loss in the urban landscape, impacts on the tourism and recreation industries, losses in the hardwood forest industry worth billions of dollars in wood products, losses in the multi-million-dollar maple syrup industry, significant damage to ecosystems, and the imposition of trade embargoes on Canadian forest products.

damaged tree trunk

Cross section of a damaged tree trunk.

Larger image

For these reasons, the CFIA implemented an eradication program in 2004, with the assistance of many collaborators, before the beetle could establish in Canada’s natural forests:

  • A quarantine zone of about 150 km2 was established around the infested trees to restrict the movement of wood and wood products out of the regulated area.
  • To prevent the insect’s further spread, all infested or seemingly infested trees found between September 2003 and March 2004 (in total, 531) were destroyed and the wood was chipped.
  • An additional 12,500 trees considered at high risk of being infested were also destroyed or chipped.

Role of the Canadian Forest Service in the eradication program

A committee under the leadership of a Canadian Forest Service (CFS) scientist from the Great Lakes Forestry Centre and made up of researchers from Canada and the United States has provided advice and recommendations to the CFIA throughout this eradication program. The committee suggested several improvements to the program, based on data obtained during the removal of infested trees and those at high risk of being infested.

Before all these trees were destroyed, each one was examined to determine if it had been attacked by the beetle. The species of each tree was identified, its size measured and its precise location in the landscape and distance from other trees determined. For beetle infested-trees, the number of signs of attack and their location in the crown were also determined. Most of this information about the insect’s behaviour in the Canadian environment was included in a comprehensive manual being used for training, and that has proved to be a useful aid for beetle detection.

Scientists at CFS combined this information with experimental research results to design survey protocols that improved inspector efficiency in detecting signs and symptoms of attack, even when beetle densities were very low. The protocols included, for example, guidelines on the number of trees to examine and the length of time to survey each one to get the highest likelihood of detecting an infestation. This information was also used to design quality assurance programs for inspections.

Other scientists from CFS helped develop new international standards for the treatment of wood packaging material so that any unwanted pests are destroyed in the country of origin before they can be transported inadvertently to North America. These standards—the International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPM) No. 15—were implemented in 2006. These measures, though not 100% effective, should greatly reduce the likelihood of a re-introduction of this insect in Canada.

Success story

The quarantine zone has been surveyed daily since 2003. Some infested trees were found each year between 2004 and 2007, with the last one being found in December 2007. By then, a total of 665 infested trees had been removed together with 28,165 high risk trees. The CFIA declared the beetle eradicated in April 2013, after five years of negative survey results in the quarantine zone.

In addition, surveys aimed at detecting populations of the Asian longhorned beetle outside of the quarantine zone have been conducted annually since 2008 in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces. To date, no other outbreaks of this insect have been detected in Canada.

Canadian Forest Service key contact

Jean Turgeon, Research Scientist, Insect Biology & Ecology

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