Experts urge residents to be on the lookout for Asian longhorned beetles

A Lowcountry town is reminding people to keep an eye out for the Asian longhorned beetle. It’s a small bug with potentially big consequences.
Published: Feb. 20, 2023 at 3:58 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 27, 2023 at 3:27 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A Lowcountry town is reminding people to keep an eye out for the Asian longhorned beetle. It’s a small bug with potentially big consequences.

The invasive species threatens a lot of different trees by chewing away bark and eventually killing the tree. South Carolina is one of four states that is fighting advances by the bug, according to the USDA.

The Town of James Island shared an infographic about the bug, reminding residents to report sightings of the bug because there are special measures that need to be taken if they’re spotted.

A local pest control expert with a focus on the environment, Kevin Reif says he saw one just last week.

“We don’t necessarily get too many calls about it. This is more of a rare thing that we do see, but it is something that we do want homeowners to be aware of. The biggest thing is just identification of knowing what it is whenever you do see it,” Reif explains.

They are recognized for their one-to-two-inch black bodies with long black and white striped antenna. They have six legs and white spots. They often leave pencil sized and perfectly round holes in a tree, along with chewed circles of bark.

Researchers at Clemson University say it is extremely unlikely that an adult beetle will be seen, especially outside of the months of late May to August. Therefore they encourage the public to look for other signs of damage on host trees, including egg sites and exit holes. You can report sightings to the research department here.

If you see one, you’re asked to report it to U.S. Department of Agriculture hotline who track the bug’s movements and population. You should also call a pest control expert who is familiar with the quarantine rules for the bug.

“If a homeowner does find one, put it in a jar if you’re if you’re willing to you can even freeze it just to kind of contain it. The biggest thing is going to be just knowing exactly what it is and then just giving somebody a call,” Reif says.

Reif also says there’s no need to be afraid of them, since they aren’t harmful to people or pets, but do pose the threat to the trees if they go unchecked.

The Town of James Island posted the reminder to be on the looking for bugs on the town Facebook page. The town provided the following statement about their recent post:

“Portions of Charleston County have been under quarantine for a few years, so we need to be sure we remind folks to keep an eye out and report any potential sightings to the USDA. While James Island is not included within the quarantine boundaries, we still need to be diligent in this effort to limit the impact on the natural landscape that makes our area so unique and beautiful.”

Reif says it’s important to report the bug, and ideally trap it to be a part of the documentation and control.

“Our trees are really close together here and sometimes you have limbs touching. And the worst thing that we could see happen is for that beetle to expand. And so if we can mitigate that and kind of quarantine the issue quicker, you’re going to be a big help with that,” Reif explains.

He says the rare calls mean the Asian longhorned beetle isn’t a rampant problem in South Carolina or the Lowcountry, but he has seen them and wants people to know what to do if they do. He says action early will prevent any damages to the environment.

“The biggest threat, it would cause us is really just our trees, our environment here. The birds - they have to live somewhere and a lot of other species use these beautiful trees to have their habitat in. And so that beetle is causing a much bigger issue on environmental and more of an ecosystem standpoint,” Reif says.

You can report a sighting and read more about the beetle, here.