Saturday, October 25, 2008

Asian beetle threatens New England trees, tourism

Nashua Telegraph (New Hampshire): A wood-devouring beetle has gained a foothold in New England, and authorities plan to cut down large numbers of infested trees and grind them up to stop the pest from spreading to the region’s celebrated forests and ravaging the timber, tourism and maple-syrup industries. The infestation of Asian longhorned beetles in the Worcester area marks the fourth time the pests have been found in trees in the U.S. and the closest they have ever come to the great New England woods that erupt in dazzling, tourist-pleasing colors in the fall.

“This insect scares us to death because if it ever got loose in the forests of New England, it would be just about impossible to contain and it’d change the landscape dramatically,” said Tom McCrum, coordinator of the Massachusetts Maple Syrup Association.

Calling it a national emergency, federal authorities have committed themselves to spending tens of millions of dollars to fight the invasion. They have sent in smokejumpers, tree climbers and other experts to identify infested trees.

The affected area now covers 62 square miles around Worcester and four neighboring towns, and at least 1,800 trees have been tagged for destruction. The outbreak was detected this summer, after Donna Massie spotted beetles on a tree in her backyard in Worcester. She caught one, searched online to identify it, then called agriculture authorities. Now her tree is riddled with dime-size holes…..

Asian Longhorn Beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis), shot by University of Illinois/James Appleby, US Fish and Wildlife Service

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