Daily Plant Masthead

Volume XX, Number 4346
Monday, May 02, 2005


Last Thursday, April 28, Parks & Recreation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the presence of the Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) in an American elm tree in Central Park.

"The good news is that we spotted it at an early stage," said Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe. The tree, located between 70th and 71st Streets along Fifth Avenue inside Central Park, was discovered by one of the USDA Forest Service smokejumpers inspecting the park for ALB. A team of five smokejumpers has been climbing and surveying trees in Central Park since mid-March. ALB larvae taken from the infested tree were sent to the Smithsonian Systematic Entomology Lab in Washington, D.C. for positive identification.

In accordance with ALB Program guidelines, the infested tree will be removed in order to prevent any further spread of this destructive pest and to save neighboring trees from infestation. Additionally, intensive surveys of the surrounding area along with tree treatments are being conducted. The goal is to eradicate ALB from New York and the United States.

Parks and the USDA ask all New Yorkers to keep on the lookout for signs of ALB. The beetle is about 1 to 1.5 inches long, has a shiny jet-black body with distinctive white spots, and long antennae that are banded with black and white. Signs include exit holes about the size of a dime and coarse sawdust created by beetle larvae as they bore into the main tree stem and branches. There may also be oval pits in the tree bark that serve as egg-laying niches. Sap may flow from these niches, especially on maple trees, as the larvae feed inside the tree.

One of the most encouraging developments in the battle against ALB has been recent research showing that application of a pesticide through tree injection increases the mortality of adult beetles and may save tens of thousands of trees from destruction. Parks, USDA, and the State Department of Agriculture will meet this week to evaluate further treatment around the infested site.

The first Asian longhorned beetle in New York City was found in Greenpoint, Brooklyn in 1996. Scientists believe it came to the United States by way of wood crating and shipping pallets that originated in China. The beetle is a major pest of poplar plantations throughout Asia. It also attacks a large range of tree species in North America, including maple, elm, willow, horsechestnut, mulberry, birch, green ash, sycamore, and London planetree, and has the potential to severely deplete our precious urban forests and permanently change our hardwood forests.

The threat to trees begins when adult females lay eggs under the bark of host trees. After the eggs hatch, the larvae bore extensive tunnels into the tree’s center as they feed and grow. In the spring, the larvae emerge as adult beetles. The adult females may fly to new trees or lay eggs in the trees from which they emerged. Then the life cycle of the Asian longhorned beetle begins again, and the relentless tunneling by generations of larvae kills healthy trees within a few years.

So far this year, 47 infested trees have been detected within the established quarantined areas of New York State; 11 infested trees have been found in Brooklyn; 1 tree in Queens; 1 in Central Park; and 34 in Massapequa. This brings the total of infested trees in New York State to 6,231. Almost 4,000 infested trees have been removed from Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens.

In November 2004, Parks & Recreation and the Department of Sanitation announced new collection guidelines for wood debris in the City’s continued effort to curb the spread of ALB. Parks & Recreation now provides free on-site wood chipping and disposal within the Federal and New York State quarantine zone.

To report a sighting of this insect, call (877) STOP-ALB. Residents can also assist in the eradication efforts by allowing project officials access to their property to inspect their trees by calling (866) 265-0301.



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Leonardo da Vinci


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