ALBANY, New York, September 19, 2008 (ENS) - New York State environmental officials are preparing to send a team of trained state forestry staffers to help Massachusetts survey and quantify the extent of damage caused by the Asian longhorned beetle, Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis announced today.
A large invasion of the destructive, wood-boring beetles has been discovered in Worcester and assistance has been requested to help inventory the extent of the damage and potential threat to surrounding trees.
DEC's forestry team will go to the Worcester area in early October, with expenses paid by the U.S. Forest Service.
Forest Service experts have said the Massachusetts infestation may turn out to be one of the biggest the federal agency has dealt with to date. Already the quarantine area exceeds that in New Jersey and is second only to New York's.
Native to East Asia, the Asian longhorned beetle has the potential to cause millions of dollars of damage to commercial forests and devastate forest habitats.
Asian longhorned beetles attack a variety of native hardwood species, including maple, birch, elm, poplar, horse chestnut and willow.
Upon hatching, the insect larvae tunnel through the heartwood of a host tree until fully grown, then they burrow out of the trunk as an adult beetles. This process weakens the wood, often causing limbs to fall off, and eventually kills the host tree.
So far, over 1,000 trees infested with the beetles have been found in the Worcester area. New York's participation will provide Massachusetts with trained professionals knowledgeable in tree identification, the target pest, and landowner interactions.
"Massachusetts is grateful for the assistance being provided by the State of New York and its forestry professionals in responding so rapidly to this urgent matter," said Richard K. Sullivan Jr., commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.
"Once the presence of this insect is detected, it is critical to quickly determine the size and extent of the infestation and to take whatever actions necessary to contain or eliminate it," Sullivan said, adding, "We also applaud and thank New York for its help in eliminating the movement of firewood between the states."
Commissioner Grannis said, "I strongly encourage residents and, visitors to help prevent the spread of invasive forest pests in New York by carefully adhering to our 2008 emergency rules against transporting untreated firewood more than 50 miles from its origin."
Asian longhorned beetles and many other exotic pests such as the emerald ash borer and the sirex wood wasp can unintentionally be transported long distances via human activity - especially the hauling of firewood, Grannis said.
To limit this risk, New York prohibits the importation of firewood into the state that has not been heat-treated to eliminate invasive species, fungi and pathogens that can harm trees.
New York DEC professionals have regularly assisted other states and the federal government in responding to emergencies, such as this beetle invasion.
In 1996, New York received help from other states in addressing the Asian longhorned beetle when the invasive insect was first discovered in the United States in areas of New York City and Long Island, and again in 2007 when a new infestation was discovered on Prall's Island off Staten Island.
New York officials say threats that insects like the Asian longhorn beetle pose to the environmental, economic, recreational, historic and aesthetic benefits provided by healthy forests is like "catastrophic wildfires in slow-motion."
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