DURHAM, N.H. New research shows an invasive beetle that has destroyed hardwood forests thrives in red maple trees, according to federal scientists.
The findings by the U.S. Forest Service in Durham, N.H., echo a 2011 study that found the Asian longhorned beetle is four times more likely to mature when it feeds on red maple rather than Norway or sugar maples. The study examined trees in Massachusetts and the results were published Dec. 31 in the journal Insects.
Scientists say the research could help target efforts to wipe out the beetle.
“In these forests, ALB attacked red maple at high rates and adult beetles emerged far more often from these trees than other maple species present,” said forest service entomologist Kevin Dodds, the study’s lead author. “Unfortunately, red maple is geographically widespread and found in many environments, providing ALB a pathway into new areas.”
The inch-long beetle with long black and white antennae first came in the United States from China and Korea on shipping crates about two decades ago. It has killed hundreds of thousands of trees across the country by boring into the trunks. Foresters have responded by cutting down and removing infested trees.
The researchers looked at two forests made up of several hardwood species within the Worcester, Mass. quarantine zone. Eggs were found in all the maple stands studied but fully grown beetles chewed their way out of nearly 60 percent of the red maples, compared to 12 percent of sugar maples and 15 percent of Norway maples.
New Jersey and Illinois have wiped out infestations while eradication activities continue in New York, Massachusetts and Ohio.
The beetle doesn’t limit itself to maples. Other trees including ash, birch, elm, poplar and willow, among many, are susceptible.