ORNL instrument could spell doom for Asian beetles

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Oct. 27, 2000 An invasion of tree-destroying Asian Longhorned Beetles could be slowed or perhaps stopped with a larvae detection system being developed by researchers at the Department of Energys Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

Larvae from the beetles, which are native to China and Korea, are inadvertently imported into the United States nestled inside the wood of shipping crates containing a host of products. Within days of their arrival, beetles are out boring into trees, where they lay eggs. The larvae start eating the trees cambium, the layer that generates new cells, disrupting its nutrient-transporting vessels. Eventually, the trees die. Its a problem that has a lot of people concerned.

"These beetles, which grow to more than an inch in length, can cause billions of dollars in damage to forests and to the maple syrup, lumber and tourism industries," said Cyrus Smith of ORNLs Instrumentation and Controls (I&C) Division.

In the U.S., the beetles favorite targets are maples, horsechestnuts, black locusts, elms, birches, willows and poplars. Already, they have infested thousands of trees in New York and Chicago. The only effective means to eliminate the beetle is to cut infested trees and destroy them by chipping or burning.

Visual inspection of crates and trees is difficult and ineffective, so Smith and colleagues at ORNL are developing a hand-held instrument that identifies the vibrations made by the larvae as they feed on the wood. Their goal is to develop an instrument that can distinguish the Asian Longhorned Beetle larvae from other insects and identify the larvae at different stages of maturity.

To develop the instrument, Smith, Glenn Allgood and Dale Treece, also of the I&C Division, are gathering vibration data from these beetles and other insects as they feed. Researchers are analyzing the information and developing algorithms mathematical solutions to solve complex problems -- to help identify the presen

Contact: Ron Walli
DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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