2010-11-18 / Letters to the Editor

Beware threat of Asian beetles

One of the most serious threats to our forests is the Asian longhorned beetle, known as the Starry Sky or Sky Beetle in China. It is a large black insect with white spots. The distinctive long antennae that give the beetle its common name are as long as the body in females and almost twice the body length in males.

The beetles are active in the summer when they lay eggs on a wide range of hardwood trees, mainly maples. The larvae hatch and bore deep into a tree where they feed on the tree’s nutrients over the winter. Once inside the tree they are invisible and immune to pesticides. The tunneling damage eventually kills the tree.

They were introduced into the United States in wood pallets and wood packing material from Asia. All wood from Asia must now be treated to kill any hidden insects.

The first discovery of the beetle in this country was in 1996 in Brooklyn. Since then it has been found in three other states. The latest discovery was in 2008 when the pest was found in Worcester, Mass.

Officials have inspected a 94-square mile area in central Massachusetts looking for the beetle. The only way to destroy it is to grind and burn infected trees. They have identified 2,500 trees for removal, with more to come.

It has the potential to destroy millions of acres of trees in the Northeast if not controlled. This could devastate the lumber and maple sugar industries.

Firewood is a major pathway for moving the beetle. That is why there is a federal ban on the removal of wood from a quarantine zone in central Massachusetts. In Rhode Island, the state is taking this threat very seriously. In 2009 a law was enacted that imposes a civil penalty of up to $25,000 for bringing wood from the Massa- chusetts quarantine area into the Ocean State.

I urge you to not bring firewood from central Massachusetts into Jamestown, not only to avoid a fine, but also to help preserve our trees.

For more information, go the Jamestown Tree Preservation and Protection page on the town’s web site.
James Rugh
Chairman, Jamestown Tree
Preservation and Protection

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