TODAY'S PAPER

LI homeowners urged to check trees for signs of beetle infestation

The Asian longhorned beetle has killed thousands of trees on Long Island. Credit: Newsday / Bill Davis

Federal agriculture officials are encouraging Long Island residents to check their trees for signs of the Asian longhorned beetle, a pest that has killed more than 8,000 trees on Long Island over the past 20 years.

While the beetle itself is not harmful to humans or pets, infested trees are dangerous, as beetles and larvae burrow into the tree, creating tunnels that can cause branches to fall off and affect the tree's stability, said Rhonda Santos, public information officer for the Asian Longhorned Beetle Eradication Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Continue reading for just $1

Only $1 for 5 months of unlimited access to Newsday.com

Federal agriculture officials are encouraging Long Island residents to check their trees for signs of the Asian longhorned beetle, a pest that has killed more than 8,000 trees on Long Island over the past 20 years.

While the beetle itself is not harmful to humans or pets, infested trees are dangerous, as beetles and larvae burrow into the tree, creating tunnels that can cause branches to fall off and affect the tree's stability, said Rhonda Santos, public information officer for the Asian Longhorned Beetle Eradication Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

advertisement

“This is one of the worst insects in the United States,” she said. “It’s really the poster child of bad insects.”

The USDA has designated August as Tree Check Month because this is when the beetle is most active and easily spotted, Santos said.

The inch-long beetle, which is native to China but was first found in Brooklyn in 1996, is usually seen on tree branches during cursory tree checks. Homeowners should look for other signs of beetle infestation, such as dime-sized exit holes in branches and bark, shallow oval scars in the bark, sawdust-like material on the ground around trees and in branches, yellow-colored leaves before fall or branches falling off healthy looking trees.

The beetles infest hardwood trees, including maple, birch, elm, willow, ash and poplar. 

“Homeowners can just quickly look at their tree and find that it’s infested and save a lot of time,” said Nicholas Bates, urban forestry educator at the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Nassau County.

People living in regulated areas with active infestations, such as Babylon, Farmingdale, Melville and Lindenhurst, should be especially wary when checking trees, officials said in a news release.

Sign up for The Classroom newsletter.

The pandemic has changed education on Long Island. Find out how.

By clicking Sign up, you agree to our privacy policy.

Santos said that people should be careful when moving firewood or solid wood packing material near infected areas, as the beetles can still survive in dead wood until they find another live host.

advertisement

Residents who think they have seen a beetle should take a picture of the insect or capture it, and call the program hotline at 866-702-9938 or complete an online form at AsianLonghornedBeetle.com, officials said.

Once a suspected infested tree has been reported, program officials will check the tree and remove it at no cost to the homeowner, and help them in reforestation efforts, Bates said. Removing the tree is the only way to ensure eradication because pesticides do not penetrate the trunk, where larvae live, Santos said.

“The best thing to do is to eradicate,” he said.