JAMAICA HILLS—The Independence Day holiday mood ended abruptly on Tuesday morning when six trees on the Faulkner Hospital grounds were destroyed after it was discovered over the weekend they were infested with Asian longhorned beetles (ALB).
The hospital is on Centre Street across from Arnold Arboretum, a well-known tree preserve here in Jamaica Plain, one of the greenest neighborhoods in Boston.
The ALB is considered an invasive species in North America, where it is a serious threat to many species of deciduous hardwood trees, including maples, birches, horse chestnuts, elms and willows. During the larval stage, the ALB bores deep into a tree’s heartwood, where it feeds on the tree’s nutrients. The tunneling damages and eventually kills the tree.
The ALB is believed to have come to the United States in wooden packing crates from China several years ago. The adult beetles—which are shiny black with white spots and long, banded antennae—have no known predators in this country.
At a press conference later Tuesday morning at the hospital, Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Ian Bowles, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) Commissioner Richard Sullivan Jr. and other federal, state and local officials announced plans to further investigate the source and extent of the infestation, and scheduled meetings to inform local residents and businesses about the effort. [See JP Agenda on page 11.]
DCR officials declared a regulated area around the site where the infested trees were found extending in a 1.5-mile radius from Faulkner Hospital and including much of JP.
No wood or wood products are allowed to leave the regulated area until further notice. For property owners clearing limbs or other wood debris from their yards and properties and anyone else wanting to dispose of wood, a drop-off area will be set up. [See below.]
According to officials, the infested trees here represent the first confirmed ALB presence in Massachusetts outside Worcester County, where the invasive species was discovered in August 2008.
Trained arborists and technicians have been scouting the Arboretum for signs of the ALB since then, according to Julie Warsowe, the Arboretum’s manager of visitor education. In February 2009 they began a protocol to regularly monitor the trees. The most recent inspections took place in June, Warsowe said, and no ALB were found.
“We are cooperating with the USDA [US Department of Agriculture]-led effort now,” she said. “We are making our landscape accessible to them to inspect just as homeowners in the regulated area should do.”
She said people have expressed concern for the Arboretum and its trees. “It is a beloved institution, so people are concerned.” She emphasized that early detection of the dangerous pests is “very important.”
In a written statement, Bowles said, “We understand that news of the ALB presence in Boston will be a concern to the community, and we are working as quickly as possible to determine the extent of the issue. We have a highly trained and skilled team with experience in the eradication efforts in Worcester, and the situation is in good hands.”
“I am currently talking to my colleagues in other communities that have experienced this scourge and am working with federal and other state agencies to address this problem,” stated local state Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez. He contacted the Gazette to express his concern about the “serious” problem.
According to a DCR press release, over the July 4 weekend, federal officials from the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed the presence of the invasive beetles in six trees, and early Tuesday morning, July 6, they removed those trees and ground them into chips to kill any adult beetles or larvae.
Since their discovery in Worcester, $50 million in federal and state money has been spent to eradicate the beetle, and 25,000 infested trees there have been cut down in an effort to halt the spread.
“While we are hopeful this is an isolated and contained incident, the City of Boston considers this issue to be very serious and we are taking every step to protect our trees by pulling together city, state, and federal resources,” said Menino in a written statement. “After last year’s incident in Worcester, hundreds of volunteers were trained to survey trees. Together with professional arborists, we have been proactive in searching for the ALB in major areas like the Arboretum. These areas will again be searched by the US Department of Agriculture and… I am confident in our plan to handle this incident in an efficient manner.”
To find the location for disposing wood in the regulated area, to report
suspicious tree damage, view photographs and videos of tree damage, or read about the Asian longhorned beetle, visit www.mass.gov/agr/alb.htm or call the toll-free Asian longhorned beetle hotline at 866-702-9938.
For updates on the ALB situation in JP, see JamaicaPlainGazette.com and the next Gazette on July 23.
From press and other materials.