TRAVERSE CITY — Michigan foresters fear the sight of a black beetle with white spots.
The insect, called the Asian longhorned beetle, has been sighted as close as Ohio, but has yet to be found in Michigan.
The beetle prays on maple and other trees. It burrows into the tree, making a hole the width of a pencil, and eats away at the tree’s inner heartwood.
The insects pose a threat to Michigan, where maple trees are among the most abundant species.
“Sugar maple grows the whole breadth and depth of the state. It’s one of our most popular species in Michigan in terms of numbers,” said Russell Kidd, a Michigan State University Extension forestry educator emeritus.
Part of the problem is that the beetle came from Asia, and has no predators in the United States.
“They’re invasive pests that have been brought in from other countries,” Kidd said. “They’re not a part of our ecology, so there aren’t other things that keep them in check.”
There are few signs a tree has been infected by a beetle until the tree falls down, said Kama Ross, a Forestry Assistance Program forester for Leelanau, Benzie and Grand Traverse Conservation Districts.
“It goes right into the heart of the wood and as it eats it carves out and takes away from the structure in the tree, but the tree can remain living,” Ross said. “The telltale sign is a tree that has exit holes where the beetle is leaving the tree.”
Ross and Kidd will teach landowners to look for the Asian longhorned beetle and other diseases at a workshop on Saturday. They’ll also discuss proper tree care to ensure trees are as resilient as possible against diseases.
The workshop, titled “Healthy Forests: Caring for our Trees,” will be held at the Grand Traverse Conservation District at 1450 Cass Road in Traverse City from 1:30 to 5 p.m. Admission is $15 per person.