Saperda carcharias (large poplar borer)
- Taxonomic Tree
- Distribution Table
- Risk of Introduction
- Hosts/Species Affected
- Host Plants and Other Plants Affected
- Growth Stages
- List of Symptoms/Signs
- Biology and Ecology
- Natural enemies
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Plant Trade
- Wood Packaging
- Environmental Impact
- Detection and Inspection
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Saperda carcharias (Linnaeus, 1758)
Preferred Common Name
- large poplar borer
Other Scientific Names
- Anaerea carcharias (Linnaeus, 1758)
- Cerambyx carcharias Linnaeus, 1758
International Common Names
- English: greater poplar longhorn; large poplar longhorn; poplar longhorn, large; poplar, borer; willow, borer
- Spanish: saperda de los chopos; saperda melancolica
- French: grande saperde; grande, saperde, du peuplier; saperde chagrinee
Local Common Names
- Denmark: poppelbuk
- Finland: runkohaapsanen
- Germany: Bock(Kaefer), Grosser Pappel-; Grossen Pappelbock
- Italy: Saperda maggiore del pioppo
- Netherlands: Populierboktor, grote
- Norway: stor ospebukk
- Sweden: större aspvedbock
- SAPECR (Saperda carcharias)
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Metazoa
- Phylum: Arthropoda
- Subphylum: Uniramia
- Class: Insecta
- Order: Coleoptera
- Family: Cerambycidae
- Genus: Saperda
- Species: Saperda carcharias
DescriptionTop of page The adults are large, hard-bodied beetles 20-28 mm long. The body is black, covered with a yellowish or ash-grey pubescence, which is thicker and longer on the under-surface and somewhat variable in colour, so that the insect appears to vary from a lighter grey to an ochreous-yellow. The head is large, the antennae long and tapering with the apical joints not ringed with white. The thorax is slightly transverse, coarsely and rugosely punctured, with a central line and a tubercle on each side of it usually covered with pubescence; the scutellum is large, semicircular; the elytra are broad, with well-marked shoulders, gradually narrowed at the apex and terminating at suture in a short blunt spine, very coarsely and deeply punctured. The legs are short and stout, pubescent, with the extreme apex of femora usually black. In males the antennae are a little longer than the body, the elytra are slightly narrowed behind, and the fifth ventral segment of the abdomen has a fine channel towards the base.
The eggs are elongate and oval, about 3.5-4.1 mm long and 1.5-1.8 mm wide. The shell is very tough, whitish to dull yellow, turning to brown.
Larvae are elongate, legless, fleshy, almost cylindrical in section. They vary in length from 4.5 mm when newly hatched, to about 37 mm or more when fully grown. The colour is whitish to dull yellow, with a dark-brown head and a pale-brown prothorax. The body is broadest across the first thoracic segment, and gradually tapers towards the tip of the abdomen; it is deeply wrinkled and covered with fine scattered hair. The head portion is highly chitinized, with very strong mandibles, and posteriorly is deeply sunk in the first thoracic segment. The cuticle of the dorsal part of the prothorax is thickened and covered with small chitinized disklets protruding backwards, which facilitate movement of the larva in the gallery.
The pupa is at first shiny-white, then, as development progresses, becomes darker, increasingly similar to the colour of the adult insect. The average length is about 25 mm.
DistributionTop of page The distribution range of S. carcharias stretches throughout Europe, extending to the Caucasus and western Siberia. S. carcharias is replaced in the Nearctic region by its 'sister' species S. calcarata, which is very similar in morphology and behaviour.
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Turkey||Present||Sekendiz & Güler, 1992|
|Belgium||Present||Nef and Janssens, 1982|
|Czechoslovakia (former)||Present||Srot, 1962|
|Denmark||Present||De Bellis, 1969|
|Finland||Present||Zetterstedt, 1828; Loyttyniemi, 1972|
|Hungary||Present||Szontagh, 1985; Toth, 1996|
|Italy||Present||De Bellis, 1969|
|Poland||Present||Strojny, 1953; Schnaiderowa, 1961|
|Russian Federation||Present||Petrova, 1959|
|Spain||Present||Zarco and Ceballos, 1956|
|Yugoslavia (former)||Present||Kovacevic, 1957|
Risk of IntroductionTop of page S. carcharias is a quarantine pest in the COSAVE (Comite de Sanidade Vegetal do Cone Sul; the South Cone Plant Protection Committee) countries of South America (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay).
HabitatTop of page S. carcharias is found on its specific host (Populus spp.) in riparian habitats where many poplar species typically grow. It is also spread in artificial poplar plantations, mainly in the older ones, where tree size makes effective control difficult and competition among trees reduces their self-defence capacity.
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page S. carcharias can feed and reproduce on a large number of Populus species. P. nigra, P. tremula, P. candicans [P. balsamifera], P. x berolinensis, and the cultivated hybrid P. deltoides x P. nigra [P. canadensis] are the most preferred hosts, although the pest can also occasionally attack P. alba, P. grandidentata and P. simonii (Srot, 1962). There is no experimental evidence for significant differences in resistance among the cultivated P. canadensis hybrids (Arru and Lapietra, 1969; De Bellis, 1969; Arru, 1975).
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
|Populus alba (silver-leaf poplar)||Salicaceae||Other|
|Populus balsamifera (balm of Gilead)||Salicaceae||Main|
|Populus canadensis (hybrid black poplar)||Salicaceae||Main|
|Populus grandidentata (Bigtooth aspen)||Salicaceae||Other|
|Populus nigra (black poplar)||Salicaceae||Main|
|Populus simonii (Simon poplar)||Salicaceae||Other|
|Populus tremula (aspen (European))||Salicaceae||Main|
Growth StagesTop of page Vegetative growing stage
SymptomsTop of page Ovipositions are revealed by vertical incisions in the bark of about 5 mm in length, which on young trees are confined to the base of the trunk. When plants grow vigorously, the cut may become convex and the wound can open or gape. Only one egg can be found in each incision.
Initial larval activity is revealed on the trunk by a thin, brownish frass which in a short time becomes progressively coarser and whiter. When the larva grows older and penetrates into the trunk sap exudes from the wound.
Adult feeding activity is revealed by characteristic holes in the leaf, which can be circular, oval, elongate or irregular but never reach the margin of the leaf. Moreover, the serration caused by the large biting mandibles is always distinct.
List of Symptoms/SignsTop of page
|Leaves / external feeding|
|Stems / internal feeding|
|Stems / visible frass|
|Whole plant / frass visible|
Biology and EcologyTop of page The life-cycle of S. carcharias requires a minimum of 2 years in areas with a warmer climate, such as Italy (De Bellis, 1969), France (Roques, 1998) and Germany (Cramer, 1954), and 3 years in colder areas, such as Czechoslovakia (Srot, 1962); sometimes a 4-year cycle is observed in very cold regions such as Scotland (Ritchie, 1920) and Russia (Petrova, 1959). Where the cycle is biennial, the adults emerge during the summer (typically in August in northern Italy) and females, after mating, lay eggs by the autumn; the eggs overwinter and the larvae hatch in the spring (by May in North Italy). A second winter period is spent at the larval stage and pupation occurs in late spring of the third year, with adult emergence in the summer. Where the cycle is longer, a third (and eventually a fourth) winter period is spent at the larval stage. The quality of the wood can influence the length of larval development, which is shorter on younger trees (Schnaiderowa, 1961).
The adults possess functional wings and have ample powers of flight but the males, being lighter than the females, fly with greater ease and more frequently. A loud humming sound accompanies the flight of the beetle (Ritchie, 1920). The adults typically rest on tree crowns during the day, feeding mainly in the evening on leaves, which they damage in a characteristic way (see Symptoms). They also feed on young shoots and branches, about half the circumference of which are girdled (De Bellis, 1969). When disturbed, the adults have stridulation capacities, emitting a fairly loud uniform chirping noise, produced by rubbing of the hind margin of the pronotum upon the central anterior portion of the prolonged mesonotum (Ritchie, 1920). Mating is probably mediated by sexual pheromones which facilitate searching and coupling of the sexes (Bianchi et al., 1988). Each female lays about 50 eggs (Ritchie, 1920; Petrova, 1959; Srot, 1962; De Bellis, 1969) inserted singly in a vertical incision about 5 mm long, in the bark. On young trees, the eggs are confined to the base of the trunk. S. carcharias females lay eggs randomly on poplars, being unable to distinguish suffering from healthy trees (Allegro, 1988b), even if the survival possibilities of the progeny are very different in the two situations. When plants grow vigorously, the reaction of the bark tissues and the healing over of the wounds can kill a very large proportion of eggs and newly-hatched larvae (up to 80%), and this can be considered the most important natural mortality factor of the pest (Srot, 1983; Allegro, 1991). The weeds growing at the base of the trunks may influence preference by the egg-laying female, as they create an environment protected against disturbance by predators.
The young larvae feed on the cortical tissues for a period of about 5-8 weeks, depending on the age of the tree and the thickness of bark (De Bellis, 1969), and then start boring into the wood. After a short horizontal gallery, the gallery typically turns upwards or downwards in a curvilinear way until the centre of the stem is reached (or a depth of about 4-7 cm); it then develops upwards vertically for a total length of 15-25 cm (De Bellis, 1969) or more (Ritchie, 1920). The gallery is elliptical in section and is progressively enlarged by the larva, which periodically moves through it, backwards and forwards. Initially a thin, brownish frass is expelled out of the gallery, becoming progressively coarser and whiter, with sap exuding from the wound, when the larva grows older. Feeding on wood is made possible by the presence in the larval gut of the enzyme diastase which enables the larvae to digest cellulose (Chararas, 1970).
After 5 moults, the mature larva bores a pupal chamber in the uppermost portion of the gallery, where it completes metamorphosis. The adult emerges from the same hole out of which the frass was ejected.
Natural enemiesTop of page
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page Seventeen different larval parasitoids of S. carcharias have been quoted in the literature (Cramer, 1954; Ceballos, 1962; Srot, 1983; Roques, 1998). Other natural enemies include the egg parasitoid Euderus caudatus (De Bellis, 1969; Arru, 1970; Srot, 1983), the predator Picoides major [Dendrocopos major, the greater spotted woodpecker] (Tichy, 1963; Srot, 1983; Allegro, 1991), and the pathogens Beauveria bassiana (De Bellis, 1969) and Pseudomonas septica (Srot, 1983). The egg parasitoid E. caudatus and the predator P. major probably play the most important role in the natural limitation of S. carcharias populations (De Bellis, 1969; Srot, 1983).
In Italy, De Bellis (1969) observed a parasitization rate of S. carcharias eggs by E. caudatus ranging from 2.3 to 27%; in the same country, Arru (1970) recorded a rate of 8-20% for the same parasitoid, whilst Srot (1983) observed an average rate of 6.5% in Czechoslovakia.
Tichy (1963) recorded 6.5% predation of overwintering larvae by P. major, and Srot (1983) observed 10% predation in Czechoslovakia; in Italy Allegro (1991) observed an average predation rate of 26%, stating that predation is positively correlated with the age of poplar plantations and is more intensive in plantations bordering woodlands; he also stated that the predation rate is positively correlated with the density of the pest population (functional response).
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page Movement in Trade
The long-distance transport of poplar trunks by ship or by terrestrial or aerial means can allow the passive movement of S. carcharias from one continent to another.
Plant TradeTop of page
|Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transport||Pest stages||Borne internally||Borne externally||Visibility of pest or symptoms|
|Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches||larvae; pupae||Yes||Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye|
|Plant parts not known to carry the pest in trade/transport|
|Fruits (inc. pods)|
|Growing medium accompanying plants|
|True seeds (inc. grain)|
Wood PackagingTop of page
|Wood Packaging not known to carry the pest in trade/transport|
|Loose wood packing material|
|Processed or treated wood|
|Solid wood packing material with bark|
|Solid wood packing material without bark|
ImpactTop of page S. carcharias is considered to be an economically important pest in Italy, France, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Hungary and Romania (Nef and Menu, 1994). It is mostly injurious in countries where poplars are grown with the aim of producing high-quality wood, mainly for the plywood and furniture industries (Italy, Spain, France, Hungary). In Italy it has been estimated that, in 1996, 8% of poplar trees in artificial plantations were damaged by S. carcharias (together with Cossus cossus) and about 350,000 Euros were spent by poplar growers on the purchase of insecticides (Allegro, 1998).
Environmental ImpactTop of page S. carcharias is thought to have no or little impact on natural poplar populations, as damaged stems in Salicaceae possess high sprouting and regenerating capacities. Moreover, natural poplars rarely form pure communities, thus preventing an epidemic spread of the pest.
Detection and InspectionTop of page Inspect the trunks (on young trees exclusively at the base) looking for oviposition incisions or for the holes and the frass produced by larvae. When newly hatched, the larvae can be found in or just beneath the bark. Once they have penetrated into the wood, sap and frass exudation become more evident. Egg incisions can generally be detected in late autumn, winter and early spring, whilst larval activity is evident during the vegetative period. Adults are very mimetic and difficult to see as they rest for long periods on the tree crown.
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page The symptoms of attack by S. carcharias on poplar trunks are very similar to those caused by Cossus cossus (goat moth). The latter can be distinguished by the darker colour of the frass, which characteristically smells of 'old leather'; moreover the larva of C. cossus is red in colour, cylindrical and has legs.
Prevention and ControlTop of page Chemical protection is carried out in poplar plantations when high-quality wood for industry has to be obtained. Particular attention has to be paid to older trees, where lower vigour from age or competition can decrease the plant's reactive capacity and consequently allow higher survival of the first developmental stages of the pest.
Treatments are generally directed towards the larvae, which are the most vulnerable stage. The young larvae can be killed soon after hatching by spraying trunks with organophosphate or pyrethroid insecticides; very high mortalities can be achieved when the larvae are still feeding on bark tissues and before they penetrate into the wood (De Bellis, 1958; De Bellis and Cavalcaselle, 1963; Lapietra and Allegro, 1982, 1984; Allegro, 1988a, 1998). On young trees the larvae are only found at the base of the trunk, thus limiting the portion to be treated. Spraying the trees in the first year of the plantation cycle is unnecessary, as the eggs laid at the base of the trunk in the nursery will die at transplanting (the plantlet base is placed about 1 m deep in the ground). Chemical control can significantly increase the mortality of the egg parasitoid Euderus caudatus (Arru, 1970, 1972).
Once the larvae are deep in the wood, only localized treatments are effective; they can be carried out by injecting insecticides at high concentration directly into the gallery, in liquid (Vasic, 1959) or aerosol formulation (Lapietra, 1980). This strategy causes little harm to natural enemies.
The control of adults has also been tested (Dafauce, 1965, 1966) but it is not as effective as the control of larvae and is not recommended due to its heavy environmental impact.
A mechanical method of control based on plugging the exit holes of the larval galleries by concrete has been tested (Turcek, 1954). Physical barriers have also been tested in order to prevent climbing of adults on the trunks (Allegro, 1990). Particularly effective results were achieved using barriers made of Algoflon D60 (an aqueous dispersion of polytetrafluoroethylene (teflon)) applied to the basal metre of the stem.
ReferencesTop of page
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Allegro G, 1991. Il Picchio rosso maggiore (Picoides major L.) nella limitazione naturale delle popolazioni della Saperda maggiore del pioppo (Saperda carcharias L.). Avocetta, 15:33-41.
Allegro G, 1998. Biologia e controllo della Saperda maggiore del pioppo (Saperda carcharias L.). Sherwood-Foreste ed Alberi oggi, 34:35-40.
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Distribution MapsTop of page
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