By Rhonda Santos
Is eliminating Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) possible? We think the answer is yes. You likely already know about ALB (Anoplophora glabripennis) and its impact on our nation’s trees. But what hasn’t been talked about enough is the effort to rid ourselves of this pest.
The effort starts with two lead partners: the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which serves as the lead federal agency; and a lead state agency, which is usually the state’s own department of agriculture. Both federal and state agencies work in cooperation with other federal and state partners, as well as with local municipalities to discuss what is known about an infestation. They also discuss the available treatment options and work together to make decisions regarding the strategies that will be used.
The goal is to eradicate the beetle while saving as many trees as possible. APHIS and its cooperators undertake eradication by imposing quarantines, conducting regulatory inspections, surveying host trees by using both ground and aerial visual survey methods, removing infested and high-risk host trees, and chemically treating un-infested host trees. An area cannot be declared free of the beetle until after all the infested trees are eliminated and multiple surveys are negative for active signs of beetle activity or the presence of the beetle itself <dash> but areas are showing success in eliminating the beetle and declaring eradication.
Although the beetle has been detected in five U.S. states — New York (1996), Illinois (1998), New Jersey (2002), Massachusetts (2008) and Ohio (2011) — just this past May, the New York City boroughs of Manhattan and Staten Island declared themselves free of the pest, reducing the regulated areas in New York from 135 to 109 square miles. These areas are the second and third areas in the state to declare eradication; the first was Islip, N.Y. on Long Island in 2011. Quarantines remain in effect for the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, as well as an area in central Long Island.
The beetle was first discovered in Manhattan in August 1999. Eradication efforts involved the removal of 130 trees. In Staten Island, the beetle was first discovered in March 2007. Eradication efforts involved the removal of 10,325 trees. Both areas received chemical treatment applications of host trees.
This past March, the state of New Jersey declared itself free from ALB, becoming the second state to declare eradication; the beetle was successfully eradicated from Illinois in 2008. After 11 years of fighting the pest, there are no longer any ALB quarantines in place in New Jersey.
The beetle was first discovered in Jersey City in October 2002. State and federal agriculture officials then found trees infested with the beetle in Carteret, Woodbridge, Linden, and
Rahway. Eradication efforts involved the removal of 21,981 trees in Union, Middlesex, and Hudson counties. The infested trees were taken to Covanta resource recovery facility where they were converted to electrical energy to power some 30,000 homes and businesses. Linden received chemical treatment applications of host trees.
Officials in Canada also believe that eradicating the beetle is possible too. In April, Canadian officials announced the eradication of an infestation found in the cities of Vaughan and Toronto. This success followed nearly a decade of collaborative efforts among federal, provincial and municipal authorities. But while the eradications of ALB in these areas are a victory for all of us, we all still need to stay vigilant and inspect trees regularly for signs of infestation — especially since trees in all states are at risk. Unfortunately, once ALB infests a tree, there is no cure for that tree, but there are treatment options to save the rest.
One great resource for arborists that was recently published by the USDA and the U.S. Forest Service is a photo-rich publication titled “Asian Longhorned Beetle and its Host Trees” (http://na.fs.fed.us/pubs/alb/alb-and-host-trees-09-12-2012-screen.pdf). It shows the host trees as well as damage caused by the insect. The USDA’s ALB informational website (www.AsianLonghornedBeetle.com) also offers more information on the beetle; signs of damage and the trees it attacks; as well as downloadable materials, including videos, pictures and an online reporting function:
So eradication is possible. The most important thing you can do is to check trees regularly for ALB and encourage others to do so too. Early detection is crucial. It can mean the difference between the six infested trees lost in Boston versus the more than 30,000 trees lost in Worcester County, Mass. Thankfully, the eradication efforts are working. An eradication announcement for Boston is expected next year, resulting in the shortest timeframe between initial detection and declaring eradication (just four years).
Rhonda Santos is public information officer, USDA APHIS Asian Longhorned Beetle Eradication Program.
Photo: USDA APHIS and NJ officials at a tree planting ceremony on March 14 in Linden, N.J.
Photo courtesy of USDA APHIS