Invasive beetle threatens Japan’s famed cherry blossoms

The appearance of cherry blossoms is hotly anticipated each year, with forecasters publishing updated maps weeks in advance. The blooms attract tourists but also locals who organize hanami or viewing parties in cherry-blossom hotspots. (AFP)
Updated 22 March 2018
0

Invasive beetle threatens Japan’s famed cherry blossoms

TOKYO: Across Japan’s capital, delicate pink and white cherry blossoms are emerging, but the famed blooms are facing a potentially mortal enemy, experts say: an invasive foreign beetle.
The alien invader is aromia bungii, otherwise known as the red-necked longhorn beetle, which is native to China, Taiwan, the Korean peninsula and northern Vietnam.
The beetles live inside cherry and plum trees, stripping them of their bark. In serious cases, an infestation can kill a tree, and experts are sounding the alarm.
“If we don’t take countermeasures, cherry trees could be damaged and we won’t be able to enjoy hanami (cherry blossom viewing) in a few years times,” Estuko Shoda-Kagaya, a researcher at the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, said on Thursday.
The beetle was first spotted in 2012 in central Aichi prefecture but has now spread across the region near Tokyo, according to the environment ministry.
Experts say it may have entered in Japan with imported wood materials.
In January, Japan’s environment ministry officially designated the beetle an invasive alien species, meaning its import and transfer are banned.
“The damage will spread further if we don’t do anything,” said Makoto Miwa at the Center for Environmental Science in Saitama.
He said beetle larva should be killed with pesticide, and trees with serious infestations should be cut down to save others.
The center has issued a guidebook with details on how to identify and kill the beetle, which grows up to three to four centimeters (1.2-1.6 inches).
“It’s important to cooperate with local residents to get rid of the insect. It takes time and we need many people to check each tree,” Kagaya said.
“And I understand people feel it’s a loss to cut down cherry trees, but it’s important to take action before the damage spreads to other trees,” she added.
Tokyo’s cherry blossom season officially started last week as forecasters watching trees at Yasukuni Shrine announced that the city’s first blossoms had appeared.
The meteorological agency said this year’s first blossoms appeared nine days earlier than average due to warm weather.
The appearance of cherry blossoms is hotly anticipated each year, with forecasters publishing updated maps weeks in advance.
The blooms attract tourists but also locals who organize hanami or viewing parties in cherry-blossom hotspots.


ThePlace: Fayfa Mountains in the southwest of Saudi Arabia

The Fayfa Mountains are also home to the largest museum in the Jazan region. (Photo/Sauditourism.sa)
Updated 20 October 2018
0

ThePlace: Fayfa Mountains in the southwest of Saudi Arabia

  • Agriculture is the main industry in the area, as the fertile land is perfect for cereals, fruits and aromatic plants

Fayfa Mountains In a largely desert country that contains large expanses of the Rub Al-Khali — “the empty quarter” — one might not expect to also find an area filled with luscious vegetation and greenery. Yet the Fayfa Mountains in the southwest of Saudi Arabia, to the east of Jazan, offer just such a lush environment, which can justifiably be described as “heaven on earth.”
The heritage of the region and its people is as rich as the color of the grass in spring. They have their own popular arts, folk tales, legends and poetry. Twenty tribes and clans make up the population of this area. The tribesmen wear flowery wreaths in their hair and wrap colorful cloth around their waists, and as a part of their traditional dress they sometimes also wear silver daggers hanging from belts.
With its rich vegetation and moderate climate, the Fayfa mountain range provides the perfect habitat for a wide variety of wildlife. The weather is moderate, compared with other mountain ranges in the Kingdom, as the breezes that blow in carry moisture from the Red Sea, which helps to prevent it from becoming too cold.
The Fayfa Mountains are also home to the largest museum in the Jazan region, which is located in a castle and has displays of priceless historical treasures including vintage weapons and bandoliers, ropes, carriage bags, tools, fire lanterns and much more.
Agriculture is the main industry in the area, as the fertile land is perfect for cereals, fruits and aromatic plants.
Despite the dreamy location and its many attractions, not many people are aware of the Fayfa Mountains. With fog-enveloped landscapes and air so rich that breathing in it increases your energy and makes you feel good about yourself, it definitely deserves more recognition and appreciation.