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Chewing Sounds May Clue Scientists to Asian Longhorned Beetle Whereabouts

By Hank Becker
June 2, 2000

The loud munching sounds Asian longhorned beetles make when feeding may clue in scientists when these pests infest trees. This is one of several new tactics Agricultural Research Service scientists are exploiting to control or destroy these wood-boring pests.

In the United States, the pest was first found infesting trees in New York in 1996 and in Chicago in 1998. Asian longhorned beetles (ALB) have been intercepted at ports in 17 states. Two highly prized and well-known U.S. urban parks--Central Park in New York City and Chicago's Lincoln Park--are at risk.

If the ALB, Anoplophora glabripennis, spreads unchecked into U.S. urban and forest landscapes, it could cause billions of dollars in damage to ornamental and forest trees and to the maple syrup, lumber and tourism industries.

So far, the only solution has been cutting down and removing infested trees. In the U.S. eradication program, once infested trees are cut down, they are chipped into tiny pieces that are sometimes incinerated.

ARS entomologist Michael T. Smith, who works at the ARS Beneficial Insects Introduction Research Laboratory in Newark, Del., is fast becoming one of the world's experts on these pests. To date, Smith has uncovered new information never before recorded on ALB behavior. This has spawned new studies that will hopefully result in the development of methods that might be incorporated into programs to manage or eradicate these pests.

Smith and colleagues are working with a specialist on a feeding-noise recognition system. It would generate an acoustic "fingerprint" as the beetle larvae feed within the two different tree tissues that they commonly inhabit--inner bark and inner wood. They're also developing an archive of the insect-munching sounds created by other chewers, like carpenter ants, within ALB-infested trees. They hope to have a functional prototype system by early this fall.

For more details, see the June issue of Agricultural Research.

ARS is the chief research agency of USDA.

Scientific contact: Michael T. Smith, ARS Beneficial Insects Research Laboratory, Newark, Del., phone (302) 731-7331, ext. 41, fax (302) 737-6780,