Brooklyn Boro

These beetles are responsible for wiping out more than 24k city trees

August 1, 2019 Mary Frost

Cadman Plaza Park in Downtown Brooklyn is filled with shady London plane trees. New York City and the state hope to keep it that way.

Inspectors from the United States Department of Agriculture climbed over fences and combed through bushes on Thursday, binoculars in hand, to inspect the trees for Asian longhorned beetles, the scourge of city trees.

The USDA believes the speckled insect, about the size of a waterbug with antennae as long as its body, has wiped out more than 24,000 New York trees — and 180,000 nationwide — since it first reached Brooklyn’s shores in 1996. Experts believe it entered on wooden pallets shipped to Greenpoint. It has also been found in Ohio and Massachusetts.

Large swaths of Brooklyn and Queens are still under quarantine, though progress has been made in Queens. Home owners must allow inspectors onto their property, and regulated wood materials may not be removed from the area without a permit.

The pest also has infested Suffolk and Nassau Counties, the agency said in a release.

Eagle photo by Mary Frost
Eagle photo by Mary Frost

Inspectors searched on Thursday for the signs of the insect: round, dime-sized holes in the trunks and branches, and little piles of sawdust-like material in branches and on the ground.

Besides London plane trees, the insects also attack maple, horse-chestnut, elm, willow, birch, poplar and ash trees.

If the beetle reaches timber country in upstate New York, the industry could face devastating losses. USDA warns that the beetle poses a dire threat to forests, parks and agriculture, including the state’s maple sugar industry.

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Eagle photo by Mary Frost
Eagle photo by Mary Frost

August is the best time to spot the beetles, as they starts to emerge at this time of year. USDA is asking city residents to look for the signs whenever they’re near trees. If you see something, call USDA at 866-702-9938 or visit at www.AsianLonghornedBeetle.com.

Josie Ryan, a national operations manager with Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, warned homeowners of the importance of getting ahead of the issue in a statement. “It’s important to look for signs of the beetle now, because it’s slow to spread during the early stages of an infestation,” she said. “Homeowners need to know that infested trees do not recover and will eventually die.” USDA removes infested trees as soon as possible to keep the pest from spreading to nearby healthy trees.

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