Columbus Recreation and Parks officials are keeping an eye on the migration patterns of the Asian longhorned beetle, an invasive species that could be more destructive than the emerald ash borer.

Columbus Recreation and Parks officials are keeping an eye on the migration patterns of the Asian longhorned beetle, an invasive species that could be more destructive than the emerald ash borer.

The beetle, which has no natural predators, was first spotted in 2011 in Clermont County in southwestern Ohio.

The good news, said Jim Gates, an arborist with the Columbus Recreation and Parks Forestry Division, is the beetle doesn't travel quickly on its own. The bad news is that, like many insects, it is transported in wood piles and other debris, Gates said.

Unlike the ash borer, it likes more than ash trees. The insect has a penchant for 13 different types of trees, including maple, birch and sycamore.

"It could cause literally billions of dollars to the state just because of the hardwood forests," Gates said. "We have $2.5 billion worth of maple timber alone."

That doesn't include the state's $5 billion nursery industry, which employs 240,000 people, he said.

"If it gets loose, it would be horrific," Gates said. "In the U.S., it would cost billions and billions of dollars."

The Ohio Department of Agriculture has quarantined 61 square miles in Clermont County, including all of Tate Township and small pockets of Monroe, Stonelick and Batavia townships, as well as East Fork State Park, said Bret Gates, spokesman for the agriculture department.

According to the restrictions, certain materials can't be moved out of the quarantine area, said Gates, who is not related to Jim Gates.

If department of agriculture officials detect infestation, the trees are removed. If infestation is detected on private property, state officials offer full host removal, Bret Gates said.

"It's an ongoing process," he said. "We're doing our best here to work toward eradication. It can be done and it has been done in other areas."

Dan Kenny, assistant chief of the Division of Plant Health for the agriculture department, said infestation begins when a female lays an egg -- she can lay up to 80 eggs at a time -- on the bark. The egg hatches and each larva burrows into the outer layer of the tree. As the larvae progress, they go toward the middle of the tree, where they hollow out a pupation chamber.

That can take about two years, Kenny said.

"They emerge straight out of the pupa chamber as adult beetles," he said. "That's where you see about a dime-size exit hole.

"If you get that repeated several times, the tree starts to lose its structural integrity," he said, "and that's when you see an increased susceptibility to wind damage, storm damage."

For now, the Asian longhorned beetles seem to be easier to contain than emerald ash borers, Kenny said. They have been eradicated in places such as Chicago and New Jersey, he said.

"These bugs aren't as likely to take off flying," he said. "They tend to like to stay on the same tree up to a certain point.

"That said, bugs have a mind of their own. We see exceptions here and there."

Meanwhile, employees with Columbus Recreation and Parks have been told to be on the lookout for the insect and have been given identification materials, Jim Gates said.

Communities throughout Ohio have been battling the emerald ash borer for a number of years.

The city of Columbus, for example, has spent millions of dollars on removing infested trees and planting new ones.