The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is asking the public to be tree heroes by helping stop the spread of the Asian longhorned beetle.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is asking the public to be tree heroes by helping stop the spread of the Asian longhorned beetle.

At stake in Ohio are the beloved Buckeye trees, an estimated 7 billion board feet of maple wood alone, plus the maple sugar crop.

The distinctive bug is 1 to 1 1/2 inches in length with an antenna banded in black and white and longer than the insect's body. It has a shiny, jet-black body with random white spots and six legs that could appear bluish in color.

To report a sighting, visit beetlebusters.info or call the toll-free hotline at 1-866-702-9938.

Gahanna forester Rob Wendling said the public, foresters and parks departments have been asked to keep an eye out for the invasive insect that feeds on 13 different genera of hardwood trees, eventually killing them. Maple, willow, elm, horse chestnut and birch are the host trees that the beetle most prefers.

"It has the potential to wipe out the maple syrup crop in Ohio," Wendling said. "We don't have a pesticide that kills this insect. It has a big impact financially to the state's agriculture crops. The other thing is that it feeds on so many types of trees, it would decimate woodland and urban forests."

The public is the first line of defense because early detection is crucial and could mean more trees saved, according to Rebecca Blue, APHIS deputy undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs.

Whether people are camping, fishing, biking or just relaxing in the backyard, she said, they should be on the lookout for the beetles and signs of their damage.

"There are no pesticides because pesticides work on the outside of trees, and these beetles work their way to the inside of the tree," Wendling said. "They turn the tree into a piece of Swiss cheese, making the tree structurally unsound."

He said the beetles make holes big enough to insert a pencil. Other signs of the beetle include oval depressions on the bark where the eggs are laid; sawdust-like materials, called frass, on the ground and the branches; and sap seeping from the wounds of the tree.

"The department of agriculture and natural resources forestry division are asking people not to transport firewood," Wendling said. "This is one way it gets transported. Right now they feel it's contained northeast of Cincinnati. They're working hard to keep it contained and eradicate it. Other states have eradicated it."

The USDA and its partners already have removed 8,489 trees and surveyed 146,620 host trees in an effort to stop the beetle infestation in Ohio.

Wendling said anyone who sees an insect that looks like the beetle should put it in a jar and get it to the department of agriculture so it could be examined.

"They'd rather have extra samples than have it spread," he said.

The Asian longhorned beetle was discovered in the United States in 1996, likely arriving in wood packing material from Asia, according to the USDA. In the 13 years since the beetle was discovered, more than 80,000 trees in Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and Ohio have been removed.