The battle isn’t over: Worcester vs. the Asian Longhorned Beetle

Ginny Kingsbury, Worcester resident and self proclaimed “Advocate for the Asian Longhorned Beetle Eradication Program” has been working hard at spreading the news of the Asian Longhorned Beetle infestation in Worcester, and sent us this informative essay that we wanted to share…

When the Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) was first identified in August 2008 in Worcester, the only available literature was left over from other infested areas in the USA, plus a few specialized studies.  The USDA will soon be releasing a new curriculum that will be appropriate for the students of the Worcester Public Schools. The USDA discovered that the Worcester infestation was worse than any others in the United States and Canada.  An ALB established lab in Otis, MA determined that the Asian Longhorned Beetle could have been here for as long as 15 years, after studying annual rings taken from infested trees in Worcester, MA.

As early as November 15, 2008, Brian Breveleri, supervisor of forestry for the city of Worcester, knew we had a serious infestation and were going to lose tens of thousands of trees. This was before the ice storm in December 2008, which complicated conditions in the control of the spread of the beetle when the urgency of control became acute.

Worcester is also unique in the density of its urban forest and the monoculture of Norway maple, one of the prime hosts of the ALB. The trees had been planted after natural disasters such as hurricanes and the tornado occurred. Worcester has also been known for its tree-lined streets. Worcester is at the gateway of the whole North East hardwood forest and has a large share of the maple trees with the well-known fall foliage of New England including sugar maples, the source of maple syrup.

The curriculum known as the Beetle Busters was developed for the City of Chicago. In September 2009, an official of the USDA explained it was too specific for Chicago, IL and could not be easily adapted for use by the students of the Worcester Public Schools. A new curriculum that would be appropriate for the Worcester Public Schools and the rest of the nation was then being developed.

Chicago had only 1,553 infested trees in seven years before being declared beetle free. After the Worcester area had more than 23,000 trees removed in two years, we still had 3,304 infested trees removed in 2010, the third year. That’s more than twice the number Chicago had in seven years. There is also a booklet documenting the history of the success of eradication of the ALB in Chicago, which was printed before the infestation in Worcester was identified.

In Toronto, Canada, an infestation was found and by following the protocol used in New Jersey, of strip cutting, 25,000 trees were cut but only 6,000 trees were infested.

Toronto cut more than four times the number of infested trees. They are considered free of infestation, but what unnecessary devastation the residents had.

The other locations in North America such as most of the boroughs in New York City, and all of New Jersey have also been declared beetle free.

Replacement trees are an on going collaborative effort with both public and private funding. The city, state and federal arborists have been working with money from the Federal government grants from Worcester, state and possibly private funding. Planting has been done by all three to replace trees as they are cut in order to some day restore our canopy with a mix of species that will never be hosts for the ALB. The Worcester Tree initiative, financed primarily by private donations and grants, has been replacing trees in Worcester and the surrounding communities. Over the years, trees have been lost to weather, disease and construction and have never been replaced.  All the trees being replaced are free to the property owner. We are really fortunate to have both groups helping the community restore its former canopy.

The injection program started in 2010 had an original goal of examining and injecting 40,000 trees but actually injected over 62,300 trees in the first year of a three year protocol. Even after a tree has been scrupulously examined by experienced arborists from the ground and in the canopy, it is possible it could already be infested by the beetle. Any of the trees that have been injected and are infested with the Asian Longhorned Beetle will be removed from the injection protocol and destroyed.

After the first year, 2008-2009, of massive removal including strip cutting of tens of thousands of trees, a live beetle was found in the very epicenter, an area that had the most intense removal efforts the USDA had available. Worcester is the fourth location in the USA and the USDA has been perfecting its skills for more than 10 years. That location was considered thoroughly stripped of any signs of beetle infestation.

Donna Massie was the Worcester resident, who first sighted and reported the Asian Longhorned Beetle. When experts from the USDA & MDAR came to her house, Donna was able to point out more beetles from several beetle riddled trees in her yard. She was living in the epicenter of the ALB infestation. The following summer, 2009, the impossible happened, Donna again found a live ALB in her yard.

The Federal program to control the spread of the beetle from the Worcester infestation to all of the hardwood trees, the maple syrup industry in New England into Canada, and the rest of the United States has been very aggressive. Using optimum machinery, manpower and funding, inspecting, injecting and removing infested trees is being done at a level that has never been done before. The alternative of letting it go would be disastrous not only to New England but to the USA and Canada. Can you imagine never having the colorful fall foliage that is one of the tourist trademarks of New England? Even with the experience, manpower and equipment, it is impossible to be sure eradication in any one section has been accomplished.  Finding all the signs of the beetle in the canopy can be difficult.

The six trees found in Boston at Emerson Hospital were dated to coincide with the construction work being done by the hospital. It is theorized that the beetles were on a truck from Worcester carrying supplies for the construction site.

Several organizations and groups have been actively involved in informing the public and looking for signs of the beetle to report to the USDA. These include Audubon and bird clubs, The Ecotarium, Tower Hill and horticultural groups and the Worcester Greater Land Trust. Also the Worcester Art Museum, churches, maple syrup organizations, private schools and colleges¾ just to mention a few. The USDA and MDAR are always available to go out into the community with supplies and information to help spotters.

Many areas have small saplings that will soon be old enough or big enough to become infested with the Asian Longhorned Beetle.  These areas include parts of Worcester that were devastated by the first cutting.   The USDA is still finding trees and hasn’t yet been able to define the outer limits of the Worcester infestation.  On Valentine’s Day 2011, two more trees were found and removed in a new area. The USDA and the city need all the  help they can get from everyone to locate new infestations. The easiest time of year to locate signs of a beetle infestation is while leaves are off the trees. One can detect exit holes, egg laying borings and frass, sawdust like shavings, along branches of the trees or on the ground.  Finding a beetle is rare because they spend their life in the branches of the canopy.

The USDA has been working on a new curriculum appropriate for students of the Worcester Public Schools since September 2009.  The new curriculum will soon be available for use by the public online. This curriculum has been created for the Worcester Public Schools and the rest of the country. The USDA and the city of Worcester need all the citizen help available to help find undiscovered infestation.  The students of the Worcester Public Schools will become a great resource of people, assisting in, discovering and reporting possible Asian Longhorned Beetle sightings to the USDA.

The Worcester USDA office number is 508-852-8090.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The battle isn’t over: Worcester vs. the Asian Longhorned Beetle

  1. Colin Novick

    Thanks for the update Ginny!

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention The battle isn’t over: Worcester vs. the Asian Longhorned Beetle | Daily Worcesteria -- Topsy.com

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