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Rare, Invasive Beetle Caught in Pennsylvania

Craig Sansig, service driector and staff entomologist for Viking Pest Control in New Jersey recounts the experience finding and identifying the potentially damaging pest.

Bill Delaney | August 2, 2012

A yellow spotted longhorned beetle, captured in Pennsylvania. Image courtesy of Craig Sansig, Viking Pest Control.

 There was good news and bad news to be had when Craig Sansig heard back from the Pennsylvania Bureau of Health upon submitting pictures of a specimen for identification earlier this year.

Sansig, ACE, service director and staff entomologist, Viking Termite and Pest Control, Bridgewater, N.J., had been contacted by Viking Technician Nicholas Malcolm in June to identify a beetle. The technician had come across the specimen while treating a commercial facility in Pennsylvania – a maintenance worker had luckily saved the beetle for inspection after it had been flying around the facility and hit him on the head, Sansig said.

“At first I thought it was an Asian longhorned beetle,” Sansig said. The Asian longhorned beetle is a wood-boring beetle, imported from Asia, which could have been devastating to trees in the area if it had spread and reproduced.  “The rings on the antenna looked similar. But the rest of it, the pattern didn’t match. I couldn’t find a match, so now I was getting concerned. I knew this company imports things from Asia.”

After getting in touch with the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the Pennsylvania Bureau of Plant Health, Sansig received a foreboding call back, he said.

“He said, ‘I’ve got good news and bad news,’” Sansig said. “Good news was, it was not an Asian Longhorn. The bad news was, they didn’t know what it was, and it could be worse.”

A few days later, Sansig arrived at the facility where the mystery beetle had been found, along with backup. “Entomologists from the USDA, Pennsylvania Bureau of Plant Health, carrying cameras and sampling equipment. I thought, ‘Great, my customer is going to love this.’ I wasn’t expecting such a show of force.”

The crew began inspecting products and pallets inside the facility, searching for beetle damage, and found three pallets that had been heavily damaged by the beetle. On one, they found live larvae, Sansig said.

The mystery beetle turned out to be a yellow spotted longhorned beetle (Psacothea hilaris) – native of Southeast Asia and never discovered in Pennsylvania. The beetle causes serious damage to Ficus, Fig, Holly and Mulberry trees. Sansig said several trees across the street from the facility in question were found to have damage, and those trees were chopped down, chipped and burned to ensure that the threatening pests could not spread.

The sample of the Yellow Spotted Longhorn beetle was taken by the USDA and was submitted to the Smithsonian for cataloging, as no sample of the beetle is in their collection, Sansig said. He credited the diligence of the staff at Viking Termite and Pest Control from stopping this invasive pest from potentially becoming disastrous. 

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