Although federal officials are not declaring complete victory yet, it looks like those pesky Asian long-horned beetles have been eradicated in Queens.
Joseph Gittleman, regional project manager of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Asian Longhorned Beetle Project, told the Queens Chronicle that the closest infestation was in 2010 in Brooklyn. Because of the lack of the destructive insects, his office is re-evaluating the 10-year quarantine that Queens remains in.
It is illegal to transport wood out of the borough during the quarantine. Fines can run up to $250,000. Queens homeowners can arrange removal of branches and trees through the Sanitation Department by calling 311 and setting up a pickup date.
The wood must be bundled. All tree material must be removed by the city, even if it does not come from one of the susceptible species such as maple or sycamore.
The beetles destroy trees and the federal government fears they will get upstate and damage New York’s hardwood and maple syrup industries.
“We still are inspecting trees in affected neighborhoods,” Gittleman said. “It’s an ongoing process.”
Two inspectors are now working from Douglaston to the Van Wyck Expressway.
“We must keep vigilant,” Gittleman added, “but I’m happy the way things are going. I’m working myself out of a job.”
He noted that Staten Island and Manhattan have been declared free of the beetles. In other areas, Chicago and New Jersey have eradicated the insects.
Massachusetts and Ohio are still removing infested trees.
The beetles are believed to have come here in solid wooden packing crates, which have since been banned. They were first discovered in Brooklyn in 1996 and spread throughout Queens beginning in Maspeth in 2003.
The bugs deposit eggs into healthy trees and the larvae feed on living tree tissue before emerging from dime-sized holes a year later during prolonged periods of heat in late June or July. Because of the damage caused by the bugs, the trees ultimately die.
The newly hatched beetles can then fly and infest new trees. To prevent further spreading, infested trees are cut down, chipped and burned.
More than 4,000 trees have been destroyed in the city.
The beetles are 1 1/2 inches long with shiny black bodies, white spots and long antennae. If you see one, call the USDA hotline at (866) 265-0301.
In related news, the state Department of Environmental Conservation is asking the public’s help in a survey to identify the beetles. Pool owners can take part now through Aug. 30 and must sign up by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (518) 810-1609.
Participants must have a digital camera and are asked to inspect their pool filters once a week. If any beetles are found, a picture should be sent by email to the state.
For those without a pool who want to take part, the DEC will accept photos wherever a beetle is found. They should be submitted to dec.ny.gov/animals/7253.html.