LEXINGTON, Ky. — Invasive insects have captured a lot of attention lately, which is good as it encourages people to be to be on the lookout for these new pests. However, we also can get many reports based on misidentifications of insects that are already found in Kentucky. For most of these invasive pests, we can have some close look-a-likes. Below is a series of invasive pests, some of which have not been found in Kentucky, and their common look-a-likes, which are found in Kentucky. This is designed so you can quiz yourself on these identifications!
Spotted Lanternfly (SLF)
SLF was recently found in southern Indiana, just a few miles from Kentucky. SLF is a serious threat to grape production, as well a major nuisance in urban areas, as it can build to high numbers and produce large amounts of honeydew resulting in sooty mold on plants and other surfaces. Which of the two pictures below do you think is SLF?
There were a few reports of SLF last week from Kentucky, but these turned out to be leopard moth. Leopard moth has similar spots on the front wings and can be confused with SLF. In the photos, Figure 1 is the leopard moth and Figure 2 is SLF. Note that leopard moth scales will rub off from the wings as can be seem in the photo, and it is much larger than the 1 inch SLF.
Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB)
ALB is another invasive pest that has been found close to Kentucky, just a few miles into southern Ohio, but has not been found in Kentucky. ALB is a threat to America’s hardwood trees. It belongs to a large family of beetles, the longhorned beetles. Among the longhorned beetles found in Kentucky, there are several that can easily be misidentified as ALB. So which among these 3 photos is ALB?
Each of these beetles has the long antennae and the ‘horns,’ which are characteristic of the beetles in this family. Each of these is a large longhorned beetle about the same size as ALB, about 1 to 1.5 inches in length with long antennae. Figure 3 is the native cottonwood borer and has more white on the wing covers than ALB. Figure 4 is the correct answer, this is ALB. Fortunately it has not been found in Kentucky. Figure 5 is one of the pine sawyer beetles, and there are several species in the southeastern U.S.
Asian Longhorned Tick (ALT)
ALT is one of our newest invasive arrivals in Kentucky and can be a blood-sucking pest of humans, pests, livestock, and
While ALT has grabbed out attention as one of our newest invasive pests, these others are also important as they can transmit pathogens that cause serious diseases. Figure 6, is a small tick, about the same size as ALT, and is the black legged tick. This is the vector for Lyme disease and can be common throughout the year. Figure 7 is of the American dog tick and is almost twice the size of ALT. Figure 8 is ALT. This is a smaller tick with noticeable ‘horns’ on the side of its mouthparts. American dog tick has smaller projections, but they are not on the mouthparts.
Asian Giant Hornet
Asian giant hornet, a.k.a. murder hornet, created quite the frenzy with the national reports in 2019. In the U.S., this invasive pest in only found in a limited area in Washington State. Despite this, thousands of false reports were made due to look-a-likes in Kentucky and other states.
Fortunately, the distribution of the “murder hornet” in limited to a small area of the Pacific Northwest. Figure 9, is the Asian giant hornet. This is the largest hornet in the U.S. with a body length on about 1.75 inches and a distinctive solid yellow head with black eyes. The next two photos are of the cicada killer wasp (Figure 10) and European hornet (Figure 11). Both of these have frequently been misidentified as Asian giant hornet as they are large yellow and black wasps, but not nearly the size of Asian giant hornet.
Emerald Ash Borer (EAB)
EAB has changed the landscape of central and parts of Eastern Kentucky due to the vast numbers of ash trees it has killed. North American ash species are very susceptible to EAB and are likely to be killed if not protected. EAB adults emerge in May and are metallic green and about 1/3 inch in length.
There are many potential metallic green look-a-likes for EAB in Kentucky, including several other metallic wood boring beetles that have similar color in their bodies. Figure 12 is another metallic wood boring beetle that is much larger and has other colors to the body, while Figure 13 is a photo of EAB. Note the uniform color from head to the tip of the abdomen with EAB. Figure 14 is a tiger beetle and considered a beneficial as tiger beetles are a subgroup within the ground beetle family.
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB)
While BMSB has been in the state for 11 years and is not new, some people continue to confuse it with other native insects. BMSB is a pest in the home during the winter months, as well as attacking many of our agricultural crops.
If you guessed figure 15, you are correct. BMSB is recognized by two light-colored bands on the antennae, the smooth edge between the head and corner of the shoulder, and white and black triangles extending past the wings. Figure 16 is the native brown stink bug; note that antennae are more uniformly brown. Figure 17 is of the squash bug, which has differences in the color of the antennae, and the body shape is elongate.
— Ric Bessin and Jonathan Larson, University of Kentucky Entomology Extension Specialists
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