Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Saperda populnea
(small poplar borer)



Saperda populnea (small poplar borer)


  • Last modified
  • 29 March 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Natural Enemy
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Saperda populnea
  • Preferred Common Name
  • small poplar borer
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Arthropoda
  •       Subphylum: Uniramia
  •         Class: Insecta

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Adult 'longhorn' beetle adjacent its emergence hole.
CaptionAdult 'longhorn' beetle adjacent its emergence hole.
Copyright©Rune Axelsson
Adult 'longhorn' beetle adjacent its emergence hole.
AdultAdult 'longhorn' beetle adjacent its emergence hole.©Rune Axelsson


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Saperda populnea (Linnaeus, 1758)

Preferred Common Name

  • small poplar borer

Other Scientific Names

  • Cerambyx populneus Linnaeus, 1758
  • Compsidia populnea (Linnaeus)

International Common Names

  • English: longicorn beetle; poplar, borer, small; small poplar Longhorn beetle
  • Spanish: barrenador del alamo; gusano del alamo; saperda pequena del chopo
  • French: petite, saperde, du peuplier; saperde du peuplier; saperde du tremble

Local Common Names

  • Denmark: aspebuk
  • Finland: Äkämähaapsanen
  • Germany: Bock(Kaefer), Gelbstreifiger Pappel-; Bock(Kaefer), Kleiner Espen-; Bock(Kaefer), Kleiner Pappel-
  • Italy: Saperda minore del pioppo
  • Netherlands: Populierboktor, kleine
  • Norway: liten ospebukk
  • Sweden: mindre aspvedbock
  • Turkey: kavak teke bocegi

EPPO code

  • SAPEPO (Saperda populnea)

Taxonomic Tree

Top of page
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Arthropoda
  •             Subphylum: Uniramia
  •                 Class: Insecta
  •                     Order: Coleoptera
  •                         Family: Cerambycidae
  •                             Genus: Saperda
  •                                 Species: Saperda populnea


Top of page Egg

Eggs oval, are about 2.4 mm long and 0.7 mm wide. One end of the egg is somewhat pointed, and the middle is curved.


The larva is 10-15 mm long with a yellowish-brown head. It is initially milk-white, later light yellow and dark yellow when fully grown. The epicranium draws back deeply into the prothorax. The palpus maxillaris has three segments and the palpus labialis has two segments. The pronotum is yellowish-brown with ossification. The stoma is brown. There is an obvious median line on the dorsum.


The pupa is 11-15 mm long and brown with a very obvious median dorsal line on the abdomen.


The adult beetle is 11-14 mm long and the body is black with dense golden-yellow villi. Its compound eyes are black. The antennae are whip-shaped. The male's antennae are almost as long as its body, whereas the female's are shorter than its body. There are no lateral spines on the prothorax and the dorsum is flat with one golden-yellow longitudinal band. The elytra are dotted with black rough punctures with light yellow villi. Each of the two elytra have 4-5 round spots which are formed by golden-yellow villi. The golden round dots on the male's elytra are not obvious.


Top of page S. populnea occurs in China, Japan, Korea, the former USSR, Europe and North America (Park and Kim, 1986).

In North America it is mainly found in eastern regions, although Linsley and Chemsak (1995), who give two subspecies, a northern and eastern form and a western form, record the pest as present in northern North America to Idaho, Oregon, Washington, California and Nevada.

S. populnea is distributed throughout the whole of Europe (Bense, 1995). In Bulgaria, old larval galleries of S. populnea were collected in the Sofia region and the West Balkan Range during 1998-2000 (Georgiev and Ljubomirov, 2000). Galls with pest larvae were collected at Sofia, Kokaliane, Plana, Churek, Gorni Lom, Gintzi, Dolno Kamartzi and Klisura, Bulgaria, in 1997-2001 (Georgiev, 2001).

In Croatia, S. populnea was one of the most important pests on Populus nurseries surveyed during 1992-95 (Glavas et al., 1996). Jodal (1974) reported it as a pest at Novi Sad, Yugoslavia. Strojny (1979) studied the pest in the Brack region of Siberia (former USSR) and found no essential differences in the biology of the pest in this region and in Poland.

In Korea, S. populnea was studied in Won Sung and Jung Won in 1985-86 (Shin and Chung, 1987). In China, S. populnea occurs in Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning, Neimenggu, Hebei, Henan, Beijing, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Qinghai, Ningxia, Xinjiang, Shandong, Anhui, Jiangsu, Hubei, Guizhou, Fujian and Guangdong. It mainly occurs in northeastern China, northern China and northwestern China (Zhang et al., 1986; Ju et al., 1997; Chi and Yan, 2001). Sama (2002) gives further information on the Asian distribution of S. populnea.

Distribution Table

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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.

Risk of Introduction

Top of page In China, S. populnea occurs widely and so is not listed as a quarantine pest. It is listed as an A1 quarantine species for the COSAVE region.

Hosts/Species Affected

Top of page S. populnea is a forest pest which primarily attacks species of poplar (Populus spp.) and willow (Salix spp.). It also attacks Blue Japanese Oak (Quercus glauca) and Java Bishopwood (Bischofia javanica).

Salix spp. are much more frequently infested by S. populnea larvae in Siberia than in Poland (Strojny, 1979). S. populnea has been reported as a serious pest of Populus tremula (especially young stands replacing dying pine stands) in Poland.

S. populnea is a destructive pest of young poplar forests. It mainly affects the growth of young and middle-aged forests. A study which determined the extent of damage caused by S. populnea to Populus xiaozhuanica cv. Beicheng showed that it infested branches with diameters of less than 0.5 cm (Wang et al., 2001). Severe stem damage by S. populnea was observed on 2- to 3-year-old trees of Populus spp., decreasing with age (Huang et al., 1988). Kailidis (1970) reported that S. populnea is a major pest of immature trees in Greece. Research in Siberia in 1975 showed that the age of twigs attacked by S. populnea larvae ranged from 3 to 7 years (Strojny, 1979).

Growth Stages

Top of page Seedling stage, Vegetative growing stage


Top of page Branches, twigs and stems, especially main shoots, are attacked by S. populnea. In newly planted forests, it mainly attacks the main shoots. As the trees grow, some lateral branches may become suitable for attack, but the insect still attacks the main shoots much more than the lateral branches.

Where S. populnea attacks, a gall is formed in the shape of a spindle. The infested branches are prone to withering and wind-breaks, which result in a deformed crown. If S. populnea attacks the stems of saplings, it can kill the whole tree. After being attacked by S. populnea for 3 to 5 years, small trees will result as the forest ages.

List of Symptoms/Signs

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SignLife StagesType
Leaves / wilting
Leaves / yellowed or dead
Stems / dieback
Stems / galls
Stems / internal feeding
Stems / visible frass
Whole plant / discoloration
Whole plant / dwarfing
Whole plant / frass visible
Whole plant / internal feeding
Whole plant / plant dead; dieback
Whole plant / seedling blight
Whole plant / unusual odour

Biology and Ecology

Top of page In China, S. populnea has one generation per year. It overwinters in galls on the branches as full-grown larvae and begins to be active in the next spring. In China, the pupal period of 20-34 days starts in mid-March in Henan, in late March in Beijing, in early April in Shenyang and in mid-April in Jilin. The adult begins to appear in late March in Henan, in mid April in Beijing and in early May in Shenyang and Jilin. It begins to lay eggs in early May in Beijing and in mid-May in Jilin. The larvae appear in mid or late May in Beijing and in early June in Jilin, and attack the fresh shoots.

S. populnea ceases moving and begins overwintering in late September in Jilin and in early or mid-October in Beijing. In Jilin, eclosion begins in early May and reaches its peak in mid May. The time of eclosion is commonly around midday. The eclosion period is about 18 days. The emergence hole is circular with a diameter of 2.4-4.2 mm. The eclosion of males occurs earlier than in females, so in the early stages more adults are male, and at a later stage more are female.

After eclosion, the adult feeds on leaves or tender bark, leaving irregular incisions. Each of the adults can eat about 2-4 cm² of leaves. The adults begin to mate 2-5 days after emergence. The adults can mate several times during their lifetime. Oviposition begins about 2 days after mating. Before laying eggs, the female detects the shoots with her ovipositor and then makes a cut, in the shape of a horse-shoe, with the mandibles and lays eggs in the incision. Most of the incisions are on 2- to 3-year-old tender branches and seldom on 1-year-old shoots. The location of incisions is closely related to the age of the tree. Incisions on 2- to 3-year-old trees are all on the main branches, whereas most incisions on trees more than 4-5 years old are on lateral branches.

In regions where S. populnea is a very serious pest there are several insect galls on one branch. Over 97% of larvae are found on 0.5-1.1 cm diameter branches. The adult likes to live in the open forest and forest edges, so isolated trees, trees on open forest land, the upper branches and the branches around the crown are more seriously damaged. S. populnea is most active at noon. The adult can migrate short distances, and the migration rate is influenced greatly by the extent of damage to the trees.

Eggs are found in about 80% of incisions. The sex ratio of adults is about 1:1. On average, each female can gestate 31 eggs and lay 26 eggs, leaving 5 eggs in its abdominal section. The number of eggs laid by the female during its lifetime ranges from 14 to 49.

The adults are active during the day. The lifespan of females is 10-24 days and that of males is 5-14 days. The egg stage lasts for 4 to 15 days, with an average of 10 days. The newly hatched larva attacks the phloem and xylem around the incision, resulting in gall formation. Ten to fifteen days later it turns to the second stage larva which burrows into the xylem resulting in expansion of the gall. The larval frass and boring dust fills up the ambrosia and will be pushed out from the crack of the egg-hatching incision. If the attacked branch is broken by the wind, the larva will die of water loss.

The larva is fully grown by late September in Jilin Province and by early October in Beijing, China. The pupal cell in which the fully-grown larva overwinters is formed by the ambrosia with the end stuffed by boring dust (Xiao, 1992).

In Korea, S. populnea had 1 generation a year and an emergence peak in May near Chuncheon. The female had an average adult lifespan of 13.8 days, whereas the male lifespan averaged 11 days. The eggs were laid singly under 'U'-shaped scars in the bark previously made by the female. The total number of bark-scars per female averaged 56.6, and eggs were found in 67.9% of them. The egg stage lasted 8-11 days at a constant temperature of 25°C and 7-14 days under field conditions. The newly hatched larvae remained under the scars for 2-3 weeks, then bored into the xylem, causing the formation of galls averaging 1.8 cm in length and 1.6 cm in diameter; the length of the mine averaged 3.1 cm. The larvae became fully fed in early October and overwintered in the mines. Pupation took place in early April, and the pupal stage averaged 11 days at 25°C (Park and Paik, 1986).

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Beauveria bassiana Pathogen
Billaea irrorata Parasite Larvae
Dilichomitus populneus Parasite
Dolichomitus populneus Parasite Larvae
Euderus albitarsis Parasite Larvae
Iphiaulax impostor Parasite Larvae
Odinia xanthocera Predator Larvae
Schreineria ceresia Parasite Pupae
Sclerodermus guani Parasite Larvae/Pupae

Notes on Natural Enemies

Top of page S. populnea has few natural enemies, and the rate of parasitism is low. Parasites recorded attacking S. populnea include Schreineria ceresia and Sclerodermus guani attacking larvae and pupae in China. Billaea irrorata, Dolichomitus populneus and Iphiaulax impostor were found in S. populnea galls in 1986-88 in Bulgaria (Tsankov and Georgiev, 1991). In 1997, S. populnea was reported as a new host of Diadegma terebrans in China (Sheng and Xu, 1997). Euderus albitarsis, Ephialtes populneus [Dolichomitus populneus] and Iphiaulax spp. have been reported to be parasitoids of S. populnea in Finland (Pulkkinen and Yang, 1984). In the Finnish study, all natural enemies of S. populnea destroyed 29% of eggs, larvae and pupae, with the chief enemy being the fly Odinia xanthocera, which killed 10.5%. Birds ate 9.3% of the pests.

In a study in Bulgaria (Georgiev, 2001), the percentage of larval parasitism of S. populnea varied from 2.4 to 33.3, with an average of 9.7%. Billaea irrorata was the most important parasite in reducing pest numbers, with an average mortality of 5.8%. In a Bulgarian study by Tsankov and Georgiev (1991), the three parasitoids listed above killed 13.1-28.0% of the pest larvae, with B. irrorata reducing pest frequency by 9.3-18.9%. This parasitic fly has also been reported on S. populnea in Sweden (Bergstrom, 1988).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

Top of page The egg, larval and pupal stages are most liable to be spread with the host plants. The main parts liable to carry the pest are saplings, branches and twigs.

Plant Trade

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Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transportPest stagesBorne internallyBorne externallyVisibility of pest or symptoms
Seedlings/Micropropagated plants eggs; larvae; pupae Yes Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye
Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches eggs; 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 Packaging

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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


Top of page S. populnea causes a high loss of timber. For a 2- to 4-year-old tree, one gall on the main shoot can decrease the increment in height by 25%. Two galls will decrease height increment by 45%, three galls by 70%, and four or more galls can prevent growth of the main shoot in that year or cause the whole tree to wither and die (Zhang and Zhang, 1990).

In Jilin Province, China, where S. populnea is a major insect pest of poplars, S. populnea occurs in more than 20,000 hectares of poplar forest and has much impact on the social economy and ecology.

Environmental Impact

Top of page Large areas of poplars and willows can be attacked by S. populnea outbreaks, causing significant enviromental impact. For example, in north-eastern China, pure poplar forests cover large areas in the Three-North Protection Belt for protection from wind and erosion damage. Destruction of poplars by S. populnea has had a significant effect on environmental protection.

Detection and Inspection

Top of page The tender branches of 2- to 3-year-old host trees can be inspected for the presence of galls. If present, then the galls should be dissected to determine if they were formed in the current year. After mid May, S. populnea cannot be found in the galls which formed in the previous year.

The grey sequence analytical method is advocated as useful for identifying key factors affecting the population dynamics of S. populnea (Liu et al., 1996).

The process of pupation, eclosion and emergence is related to accumulated temperature above 5°C. With increased accumulated temperature above 5°C, the rate of development increases, and so heat-sums can be used to predict the developmental stage. Heat-sums above 5°C at the beginning of pupation, the start of the peak of pupation, maximum pupation and the end of maximum pupation are 55.3, 63.2, 95.9 and 145.4 degree-days, respectively. The corresponding heat-sums for different stages of eclosion are 247.0, 275.2, 362.4, and 449.6 degree-days, respectively, and those for emergence are 311.2, 339.4, 426.6 and 513.8 degree-days.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

Top of page The galls of S. populnea and Paranthrene tabaniformis are similar in size and shape. However, unlike the galls of P. tabaniformis, there are horseshoe-shaped incisions on the galls of S. populnea, which form when the female hatches. In P. tabaniformis the pupal case is left on the emergence hole after emergence, which is a main indicator for distinguishing P. tabaniformis from S. populnea. It is easy to distinguish the larvae and pupae of these two pests.

Prevention and Control

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Biological Control:

Good control of larvae and pupae of S. populnea was achieved by the release of Sclerodermus guani in conditions of sparse understorey vegetation, low altitude (200-300 m), high temperature (22-30°C) and low humidity <90% RH) (Zhang, 1994). In an experiment conducted during 1996 in Jilin, China, the introduction of S. guani resulted in effective (64.5%) control of S. pupulnea. The financial cost of this control strategy, however, was high (Pi et al., 2001).

In a field trial, the application of Metarhizium anisopliae against S. populnea resulted in 94.1% mortality (Fan et al., 1988). Pilot tests with a conidial suspension of M. anisopliae subsp. anisopliae, strain Ma83, gave 70.8% control of S. populnea (Fan et al., 1990).

The protection and utilization of natural enemies such as woodpeckers may be a good way of controlling the pest. In a study in Finland, the few natural enemies of S. populnea together destroyed 29% of the eggs, larvae and pupae, and seemed to play a relatively large role in regulating numbers of S. populnea (Pulkkinen and Yang, 1984).

Silvicultural Control:

The occurrence of S. populnea is closely related to the environmental conditions, especially the silvicultural methods used. Planting large areas of pure poplar forest creates good conditions for the pest to thrive, and therefore planting mixed forests including resistant species suitable to the site is useful. When planting poplars, 3-year-old saplings with an obvious stem should be used. Existing pure forests should be restructured to improve the quality of the forest, as pure poplar forests are very liable to be infested by S. populnea.

Chemical Control:

Spray treatment with phenthoate or chlorpyrifos during the period of adult emergence produced high insect mortality (>91%) (Shin and Shung, 1987).

A programme comprising 5-8 applications of organophosphate insecticides with systemic, ovicidal or contact action against different stages is recommended as effective against S. populnea (Attard, 1979). The cost of the treatment was considerably lower than that for treatments used hitherto.

Other Control Methods:

Sources of pest infestation should be cleared; infested branches, dead trees and wind-thrown trees should be removed, and weak trees should be regenerated. Galls can be cut from late autumn to early spring.

The flight ability of S. populnea is poor, and artificial trapping can be used against the pest. During the peak period of adult eclosion, trapping adults can reduce the population.

The eggs can be cracked with hammers or stones to decrease the quantity of larvae emerging.


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