Bethel public forum Thursday on Asian Longhorned Beetle

BETHEL, Ohio - The discovery of Asian Longhorned Beetles in Bethel and Tate Township is causing a great deal of concern among property owners in the Clermont County communities.

The insects can cause extensive damage to trees -- especially maples.

That's why the U.S. Department of Agriculture is sponsoring a public forum Thursday night from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. at the Bethel Community Center on Union Street in Bethel.

Experts will be on hand to answer questions about how the beetles got to Clermont County, how to identify them and what to do if they're spotted.

The beetles were discovered last week in three maple trees on the front lawn of Bill Skvarla's Harmony Hill Vineyards property on Swing's Corner-Point Isabella Road in Tate Township.

Skvarla noticed unusual damage in the trees after a storm that had winds clocked at only 18 miles per hour.

"That little bit of wind broke out the tops of these trees -- branches that were probably 4 or 5 inches in diameter," he said.

What startled him the most were places where the bark was worn away and holes the size of dimes were evident in the limbs.

That's where the beetles laid eggs, which hatched into larva and grew into beetles that ate the wood eventually causing the branches to fall off.

Sensing that he had a big problem on his hands, Skvarla took a sample of the damage to a tree expert in Georgetown. It was forwarded to the Ohio Department of Agriculture in Columbus.

The diagnosis was not good news and one of the trees had to be immediately cut down.

"When that tree hit the ground, they started scurrying around and made a 100 percent positive identification that it was the Asian Longhorned Beetle," he said.

According to Skvarla, there was no damage at all to anything involving the vineyards. He's not sure about the numerous maple trees on 70 acres of protected forests at the rear of his property.

Agriculture experts have swarmed into Clermont County to inspect the damage. They've set up shop in the Ranger's Office at East Fork Lake State Park.

Seven two-member teams of inspectors have fanned out over Bethel and Tate Township looking for signs of infestation in other maple trees.

Dan Kenny and Dave Adkins from the Ohio Department of Agriculture checked maples Wednesday in one of the parks behind the Middle School.

"We're looking for exit holes and egg sites and maybe even the adult beetles themselves," said Kenny. "Right now we're kind of in the discovery phase. We're trying to get an idea of the size and the scope of the infestation in the area."

Kenny said the beetle is a native of Asia, but he's not sure how it ended up in Bethel.

"Some of the infestations have resulted from wood packing material," he said. "So, it's a concern for the forest products industry the nursery industry and the green industry."

Sharon Lucik of the United States Department of Agriculture said the department knows a problem exists, but the size isn't known.

Other infestations have been confirmed in Chicago, New York, Boston and New Jersey.

"We've surveyed 2,072 trees so far and we have found 87 trees with suspect damage for the Asian Longhorn Beetle. "

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