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Foreign beetles destroying Japan's famed cherry blossom trees

Cherry blossoms

By Julian Ryall

Japan's iconic cherry blossoms, which bring millions of tourists to the country each year, are under attack from a foreign species of beetle that experts fear could decimate trees across the nation.

The Environment Ministry has begun procedures to have the red-necked longhorn beetle, or Aromia bungii, designated as an invasive alien species and ban imports or domestic breeding of the creature.

The move has come too late for hundreds of cherished cherry trees across the country, however, after beetles were imported into Japan in cargoes of lumber from China, Vietnam and other parts of south-east Asia, the Yomiuri newspaper reported.

"It is conceivable that cherry-blossom viewing spots will disappear from Japan in several decades", Ryutaro Iwata, a professor of forest entomology at Nihon University, told the newspaper.

The ephemeral two-week season of the blossoms is a huge tourist draw, with more than 2 million enjoying the spectacle in March last year. That figure included a little over 20,000 arrivals from Britain, up nearly 13 percent on the same month in the previous year.

Experts warn that the beetles reproduce rapidly and have a preference for cherry and peach trees. The creatures grow up to 1.5 inches in length and bore into the trunk of the trees before emerging in the summer months.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017