Beetlemania ends! Invasive Asian longhorned beetle banished from city
The insect that threatened to wipe out tens of thousands of the city’s trees has been squashed.
State, city and federal agencies announced on Thursday that the Asian longhorned beetle has finally been eradicated in Brooklyn and Queens, the last two holdouts in the city.
At a celebration in McCarren Park in Williamsburg, cupcakes decorated with pictures of the distinctive black insect were served to jubilant parkgoers and agriculture and horticulture experts.
“Today is a great day for our urban forest as we announce the eradication of the Asian longhorned beetle,” announced Liam Kavanagh, first deputy commissioner of the city’s Parks Department. “It was a bleak day for forestry in New York City when this pest was discovered. Half of the hardwood trees in New York State are susceptible.”
The successful eradication was the result of a decadeslong collaborative effort by multiple city, state and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations and private landowners, officials said.
These include the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the state’s Department of Agriculture and Markets and Department of Environmental Conservation, and the city’s Department of Parks.
“It’s been a long, hard road,” USDA’s Samantha Simon said. “We knew that if it became established, the Asian longhorned beetle would threaten billions of dollars’ worth of timber [and] the maple syrup industry.”
The insect attacks maple, elm, willow, horse-chestnut, mulberry, birch, green ash, sycamore and London planetrees.
Since the insect was first discovered in Brooklyn, it has spread to Long Island, Massachusetts and Ohio, Simon said.
Assemblymember Joseph Lentol recalled that Monsignor McGolrick Park in Greenpoint was hit hard by the beetle when it first arrived.
“We lost every single maple tree,” he said. The Forestry Service “promised to replace every tree, and delivered.”
The final elimination of the beetle in New York City made some officials positively light-hearted.
“While this is a celebration, it’s also a bit of a funeral,” DEC Director Steve Zahn joked. “Don’t let the door hit you on the carapace on the way out.”
The Agriculture Department’s Christopher Logue said that the agency took an aggressive role — “inspecting, surveying, implementing quarantines.” They also worked to educate local landscapers, which “put more eyes on the ground.” Residents took an active role by opening up their property, he said. “It’s a shining example of success in this area.”
It’s been 23 years since the invasive beetle (technically not a bug) was first detected in Brooklyn. Experts believe it entered the country on wooden pallets shipped to Greenpoint.
The USDA calculated 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. Thursday’s announcement marks the end of a six-year quarantine in northern Brooklyn and Queens.
To eliminate the beetle, APHIS regulated the movement of trees, firewood and woody debris and carried out surveys to find and remove infested trees. In total, APHIS removed 5,208 infested trees and treated 67,609 at-risk trees.
Ashley Ardilo, with the Department of Agriculture, says people still need to keep their eyes open for the Asian longhorned beetle and other invasive pests, such as the spotted lanternfly. “The more eyes that we have out there, the better,” she said.
Correction (Oct. 11): A previous version of this article said the announcement was made Wednesday. It was made Thursday. The Eagle regrets the error.
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