Two dogs are being used in an Asian longhorned Beetle eradication program. They are being trained to smell the beetle droppings to help researchers identify hardwood trees that are infested and require eradication.
Asian longhorned beetles live in and reproduce in hardwood tree species, such as maple, birch, horse chestnut, poplar, willow, elm, and ash. The beetle eventually kills the host tree. The destructive species was unknowingly brought into the United States in hardwood packing materials such as pallets when goods from China were shipped here, starting in the 1980s. It has been reported the first of the beetles in the United States were noticed in Brooklyn in 1996.
The dogs are being trained for use in an area of Massachusetts that has already identified over 29,000 infested trees and had them removed. (Seven thousand replacement trees have been planted.) Six thousands trees in New York had to be cut down and destroyed. Over 1,500 were also removed in Chicago. The beetles have caused entire neighborhoods to lose their trees, and infestations are still being discovered. There is a $25,000 fine for transporting any wood hosting these beetles, because spreading them to other trees and forests would be disastrous.
The reason the eradication and quarantine efforts are being taken seriously is that the beetles can spread and kill enough trees that entire ecosystems can be disrupted. For example, in a region of China they may have killed up to 50 million trees. Eradication efforts are taking place in the states of New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey.
The US Dept. of Agriculture has also created teaching content focused on the beetle and what can be done about the tree destruction, for schools called BeetleBusters.
Image Credit: Djmirko