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What does Maple Syrup Have in Common with an Invasive Insect?

Two Asian longhorned beetles on maple tree

Two Asian longhorned beetles on maple tree

Today is National Maple Syrup Day!  So, what does maple syrup have in common with an invasive insect?  Well, if the insect is the Asian longhorned beetle, then they both can come from maple trees.  Obviously, we want the maple syrup and not the invasive beetle.  But who cares?  And why should anyone care?  Well, I care and here’s why:

Not only do I work for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, an agency that is actively fighting known infestations of Asian longhorned beetle in three different states, but I also am a native of Vermont.

According to a 2013 release about Maple Syrup Production issued by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, Vermont is responsible for 40% of the United States’ maple production – that’s 1,320,000 gallons from just one tiny state!  It typically takes 50 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup.  A single maple tree can produce an average of 15 gallons of sap per season, so you need at least 3-4 maple trees just to make the one gallon of syrup.  Many Vermonters like to say they have maple syrup running through their veins; it’s simply that important, valued, needed and wanted.

But the Asian longhorned beetle is a real threat to our country’s maples trees and to 12 other types of hardwood trees too.  It doesn’t belong here and we don’t want it here.  When the beetle attacks trees, its larva feed on the heartwood or center part causing tunneling that can make a cross-section of a tree look like a piece of Swiss cheese.  The damage weakens the tree and eventually the tree will die.

The best line of defense is you.  In honor of National Maple Syrup Day, and for the love of all things maple, I am asking you to take a look at your trees.  If you are outside, just walk up to a tree and see if it has round holes on the trunk and/or branches – these holes are caused by the adult beetle when it exits the tree.  The holes are a little bit smaller than a dime and just a bit bigger than the circumference of a pencil.  You won’t see the adult as they die off with the first hard frost, but you can still see the holes and other signs of damage.

The sooner we know about an ALB infestation, the sooner we can do something about it, so please report any sightings.  Long live National Maple Syrup Day!

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