The state of New York will check its campgrounds next month to hunt for an invasive tree-eating Asian beetle that may have hitched a ride from an outbreak now raging in Massachusetts.
The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation is pulling campground reservations made during the last four years by residents near Worcester, Mass., to learn which campgrounds were visited by people who unknowingly could have brought in firewood infested with Asian longhorn beetles, according to the Albany Times Union.
“We expect to start a survey of our campgrounds in February to look for signs of the beetle,” said Pam Otis, a parks analyst who spoke Thursday (Jan. 29) at the New York Invasive Species Council.
According to the department’s records, Worcester residents visited 23 of the state’s 67 campgrounds.
Worcester is fighting a massive beetle infestation since the insects were first discovered in August. A 64-square mile area has been quarantined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and officials this month started cutting down thousands of infested trees.
In New York, temporary emergency rules that ban the movement of untreated firewood more than 50 miles from its source have been in place since June 2008. The state is moving to make such rules permanent.
Maple syrup producers have warned that the state’s syrup industry could be devastated if the beetles get into sugar maple trees.
“What the New York park system is doing is a very good exercise to help us uncover any satellite beetle populations that may exist,” said Suzanne Bond, a spokeswoman for the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. “This work is critically important to help us identify outbreaks sooner, rather than later.”
About 6,200 infested trees around Worcester have been cut since beetle-eradication efforts started this month, she said, and another 4,000 trees must go. Felled trees are put through wood chippers to kill beetles.
Bond said the beetles likely have been around Worcester for at least a decade, after federal investigators found a local insect hobbyist who put a specimen in his collection in 1997.
First showing up in the United States in Brooklyn a year earlier, the beetles are believed to have arrived in wooden shipping containers on cargo ships from China. Faced with no native predators, the shiny black beetles chew into hardwood trees to lay eggs. Once eggs hatch, small white larvae bore through the tree for nearly a year, feeding on a sensitive vascular layer beneath. This damage weakens the tree and can kill it if infestation is severe.
Over the course of a year, a larva will mature and pupate near the surface under the bark. From the pupa, an adult beetle emerges to chew its way out and form characteristic round holes about a half-inch in diameter.