Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Asian long horned beetle on a tree. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Ants and Beetles and Lanternflies, Oh My!

Nifa Authors
Rachel Dotson, Public Affairs Specialist (Social Media)

From the Asian long-horned beetle to the Spongy Moth, these are just a few examples of invasive pests that have a knack for wreaking havoc on our environment. Healthy ecosystems are vital to plant, animal and human life. Introducing unwanted species can affect the ecosystem health and productivity of natural and managed systems.

According to USDA’s National Invasive Species Information Center, a 2021 study estimated that invasive species have cost North America $2 billion per year in the early 1960s to over $26 billion per year since 2010. 

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) provides important support to researchers in their work to learn more about the impact of invasive pests.

Detecting Tropical Fire Ant

The tropical fire ant invaded American Samoa in the early 2000s and is known for its painful stings. However, a new non-native fire ant species could become an even more serious pest. Strengthening American Samoa's ability to prevent, detect and respond to invasive exotic ants is essential to preserving the territory's agricultural production, its environment and its people's unique way of life. A team at American Samoa Community College is leading an effort to bolster protection for native ecosystems by enhancing the territory's capacity to detect and respond to invasive ant incursions. 

Sniffing out Spotted Lanternfly

The spotted lanternfly is native to China and was first detected in Pennsylvania in September 2014. Spotted lanternfly feeds on a wide range of fruit, ornamental and woody trees, with tree-of-heaven being one of the preferred hosts. Texas Tech University (TTU) researchers are working to evaluate how well scent detection dogs can detect the presence of spotted lanternfly eggs in vineyards.

TTU leveraged its partnership with the National Association of Canine Scent Work, which has registered over 20,000 dogs in detection work, to train 70 certified dog teams to detect spotted lanternfly eggs and evaluate the teams in real-world deployment tests in active vineyards.

Read additional NIFA-funded research projects on the spotted lanternfly here

Managing Emerald Ash Borer

Emerald ash borer (EAB) is an invasive insect that threatens to destroy North American ash trees following its accidental introduction from Asia in the 1990s.The most successful and cost-effective approach for protecting individual ash trees from EAB is with an injection of the insecticide emamectin benzoate into the trunk. A single injection provides protection for multiple years. Recent research suggests ash tree mortality can be slowed by treating just 40% of trees in a community with insecticides and targeting the period before EAB females lay their first egg.  

Called Slowed Ash Mortality (SLAM), this program is based on applying insecticides early in the invasion to kill most beetles before eggs are laid. Most municipalities, however, are hesitant to employ this approach without validation of varying stages of EAB invasion. 

To address this reluctance, researchers at Purdue University tested the capacity of the SLAM program to protect ash trees at urban forest sites at the cusp of an EAB invasion. They found that an area-wide strategy to destroy EAB can substantially reduce the costs of managing ash trees in cities and retain the benefits provided by mature urban trees, with minimal impacts on other organisms or the environment. 

Read more on NIFA’s work addressing the threats posed by invasive pests here

Farm Bill Priority Areas
Plant health, production, and products
U.S. States and Territories
American Samoa

Your feedback is important to us.

Take the Website Survey