Beetle hunt, wood ban to last years

July 15, 2010
By

John Ruch

Chipping site to be set up

Web Exclusive

No new cases of the tree-killing Asian longhorn beetle (ALB) have been found in Jamaica Plain since ALB was discovered in six Faulkner Hospital trees on July 5, officials announced at a heavily attended July 13 community meeting at Franklin Park.

But the hunt for ALBs likely will last four years or more—and so will a federal ban on moving wood out of a restricted area that covers most of JP. Previous successful ALB eradications have taken six to 10 years, officials said.

“You will see us in the upcoming months and years” examining local trees, said Clint McFarland an ALB eradication expert with the US Department of Agriculture. “This never, ever ends, our hunt for the beetle.”

A large wood-chipping site also must be set up and operate for that period to destroy any waste wood—which could contain ALBs—from landscapers, homeowners and others. A proposal to put that site temporarily on Circuit Drive in Franklin Park has been withdrawn after community oppositions, officials said at the meeting.

But a wood-chipping site is urgently needed to handle City of Boston yard waste, which is not being collected in the restricted area for now. The site needs to be at least a quarter-acre in size, available for tractor-trailer access, and will have an industrial-sized wood-chipper operating from July 1 through Nov. 1. Officials told the Gazette that they have no candidate sites in mind, though parking lots and the American Legion Highway area are possibilities.

Officials have begun a long process of examining every possible ALB-hosting tree in the area, and will have to repeat the search three times over years to be sure the beetles are not there. Meanwhile, residents are urged to examine their own trees.

Any tree found with ALBs must be cut down and destroyed.

The ALB is a large black or iridescent-blue beetle with white spots and long antennae. The classic sign of ALB infestation in a tree is a perfectly round hole in the bark about the size of a pencil eraser.

Anyone who thinks they may have found evidence of ALB in a tree should call a state hotline at 866-702-9938.

For detailed information on ALB and the hunt, see the web sites MassNRC.org/pests/ALB and Beetlebusters.info.

The ALB hunt is moving quickly and its tactics are still being developed. Other key information as of last night includes:

• The ban on transporting wood covers an area in a 1.5-mile radius from Faulkner Hospital at Centre and Allandale streets in Jamaica Hills. That includes most of JP and parts of Roslindale, West Roxbury and Brookline. The ban means that wood products and debris can come in, but cannot go out. Firewood is included in the ban. Chemically treated or pressed wood, such as the kinds used in construction, are not covered by the ban because beetles cannot survive in them.

• Violating the wood transport ban is a state and federal crime with fines up to $250,000. However, it is enforced only by the tiny state Environmental Police unit. The ban will rely largely on education instead of enforcement, and on resident tips of violators. The Environmental Police number is 800-632-8075.

• The city plans to soon collect yard waste with a special, separate collection, the way it previously has done during the spring and fall. But no collection will happen until the wood-chipping site is set up.

• The ALB search will include trees on private property. Residents will be asked first for access whenever possible. If an ALB infestation is found in a privately owned tree, the state still has the authority to cut down the tree and will replace it. However, resident cooperation is always asked for first.

• The ALB eradication plan will include using pesticides on certain trees at certain times in the spring. No details of that plan are in place yet.

• ALBs only infest certain kinds of trees, including maple, birch, elm, willow, sycamore, poplar, ash, chestnut, hackberry, plane, katsura and silktree. Immune types of trees include conifer, oak, apple, crabapple and any tree with pitted fruit, such as cherry. That means that some parts of JP’s major green spaces, such as the oak-lined Arborway, are immune to ALBs.

• Officials have examined 1,643 trees so far in the area of Faulkner Hospital, the Italian Home for Children, Arnold Arboretum, Allandale Farm and some residential properties. Arnold Arboretum also is conducting its own examinations, and has done so before. The official hunt will expand outward from that area.

• The ALB infestation at Faulkner was at least two years old.

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