comscore Invasive beetles killing off Japan’s cherry, peach trees | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
News

Invasive beetles killing off Japan’s cherry, peach trees

  • JAPAN NEWS-YOMIURI
                                The trunk of a cherry tree at Tatebayashi High School in Gunma Prefecture is severely damaged by red-necked longhorn beetles, which have killed trees in 11 prefectures.

    JAPAN NEWS-YOMIURI

    The trunk of a cherry tree at Tatebayashi High School in Gunma Prefecture is severely damaged by red-necked longhorn beetles, which have killed trees in 11 prefectures.

TOKYO >> Cherry and peach trees across Japan are dying at the hands of invasive beetles, and one expert warns that in the worst-case scenario, there may be no cherry blossoms to view a few decades from now.

The first report of damage by the kubiakatsuya kamikiri (red-necked longhorn beetle) came in 2012 in Aichi Prefecture. Now, 11 prefectures have been hit, with cherry trees dying in parks and schools, as well as peach trees in orchards.

The beetle, native to China and Mongolia, was designated an invasive species in 2018. It may have arrived in Japan in wooden packing materials.

“No matter how many times we get rid of them, they just keep coming back,” said the office manager at Tatebayashi High School in Tatebayashi, Gunma Prefecture, while pointing out a tree that suffered holes in its trunk.

There were once 29 cherry trees fronting the school gate. They were popular among students and residents.

In July 2015, the trees started to die at the hands of the beetle. The school tried to fight off the bug with pesticide and covered tree trunks with protective nets. But swarms of beetles kept returning. By August, the staff was battling the bugs hands on and killed 350.

But since then, seven trees have been chopped down, and six stand dead. The remaining 16 are blooming poorly, and because large branches can suddenly fall off trunks, the school has given up. By the end of next year, all the trees will be gone.

The beetle’s high fertility and mobility make it especially threatening. While a Japanese long-horned beetle lays 100 eggs at most, the red-necked longhorn can lay more than 500 eggs and travel more than a mile by riding the wind.

With no natural enemies, its population abounds, and the fact that it prefers peach and cherry trees only exacerbates the problem. So far, there is no definitive method for eradicating the bug.

In Tatebayashi, the government is paying residents about 50 cents per beetle killed. Last year, citizens killed 6,249 beetles. Yet the number of damaged trees grew.

“If we don’t act now, we may not be able to enjoy cherry blossom viewing 20 to 30 years from now,” said Ryutaro Iwata, a specialist in forest entomology. “The central government must establish a system to forcibly cut down, crush and burn the damaged trees.”

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

Be the first to know
Get web push notifications from Star-Advertiser when the next breaking story happens — it's FREE! You just need a supported web browser.
Subscribe for this feature
Comments (0)

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Terms of Service. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. Report comments if you believe they do not follow our guidelines.

Having trouble with comments? Learn more here.

Scroll Up