Democrat Photo by John Emerson
MEET THE BEETLES: This display was part of a program last Friday regarding the Asian Longhorned Beetle and its potential threat to the NYC watershed in and around the county. The display shows both the adult and larval stages of the beetles existence.
Beetles May Pose Threat to Area
By John Emerson
FERNDALE April 14, 2000 -- Normally eradicating an entire species of insect, plant or animal on American soil is viewed with alarm and protest among conservationists and similar activists.
Not so with one of the most recent insect pests from China.
The Asian Longhorned Beetle, an attractive black and white bug with antennae about as long or longer than its 1 and 1/2 to 2-inch body, is slated for extermination, if officials can figure out how to do it. The bug has a nasty habit of destroying the trees that give it life and sustenance.
There is a clear and present danger from this insect, said Richard Coombe, director of the New York City Watershed Agricultural Council and a Grahamsville resident. This bug could threaten the entire watershed forest.
Last week, the Watershed Council, in conjunction with the City Club of New York, presented a symposium on the bug at Cablevision Center in Liberty. The goal was to alert people living in the New York City watershed of the danger posed by the alien pest.
Its not in the watershed yet, said John Schwartz of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. This is all about the beetle and the watershed and keeping them as far apart as possible.
The bug apparently snuck into the country from China, buried deep in wooden packing crates. Thus far, its presence in New York has been limited to sections of Brooklyn, Queens, a park in Manhattan and the area around Amityville, Long Island. Two years ago, however, a new infestation site was discovered almost 1,000 miles away in Chicago.
The adult form of the insect generally causes very little damage, mostly gnawing on the small twigs of a variety of hardwoods. The real damage occurs when the insect is in its larval stage.
Females lay their eggs, normally about 30, inside the bark of their hosts. When the eggs hatch, the larva eat their way into and through the heartwood, where they spend the next one to two years before emerging as an adult through a round hole about 3/8 of an inch in diameter. In their wake, the inside of the tree is honeycombed with galleries where the insects have been. The tunneling weakens the tree and eventually kills it.
When they are looking for a home, the bugs select some of the most common trees in the northern hardwood forests that make up most of the watershed.
All varieties of maples, willows, poplars, ash, birch, horsechestnuts, mulberry, elm and black locust are suitable for the bug.
One of the biggest problems officials have trying to control the beetle, according to Ken Law (an agent with the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service), is that they live deep inside the tree and are therefore safe from insecticides.
They also seem to have no natural predators or parasites in the United States to hold populations in check.
Right now, the only way we have to control them is to take down the infested trees, chip them up and burn the chips, he said. The infested trees serve as nurseries for the beetle.
So far, state, federal and city officials have removed more than 4,500 trees in their attempts to eradicate the insect. They have also established infested areas as quarantine zones, but there is no guarantee the beetle wont slip through, or even that it will not be brought in again in the future.
Our immediate task is to increase awareness and preparedness, said Larry Gooberman of the City Club of New York. Everyone needs to know about this beetle.