This month, the Asian longhorned beetle was discovered outside the eradication zone in Worcester, Mass. and the surrounding area. A resident found one of the insects in the town of West Boylston, and officials say the beetles have probably been there for about two years.
As I mentioned in my August post, the federal and state government programs to control this pest have already resulted in the destruction of more than 25,000 trees. Now it looks as though despite their best efforts, the ALB is spreading.
In addition to cutting down trees, the USDA has been injecting imidacloprid, a pesticide, into the soil to protect healthy trees from from beetle infestations.
In a new, research-based phase of the program, the government will now expand the pesticide treatments into the fall, to determine whether they can be effective at this time of year. Until now, treatments have been done mainly in the spring. And three additional chemicals will be tested as part of this pilot program: clothianidin, emamectin benzoate and dinotefuran.
Not everyone is happy about this research. The Massachusetts Pesticide Board wants more information on the environmental impact and the monitoring of the effects of imidacloprid. The state is also leery of the USDA’s plan to raise the pesticide’s use to triple the current limit, and it is not alone. Groups such as “Safelawns” warn that imidacloprid could be linked to the collapse of honeybee colonies, and that treating the soil around trees could pollute groundwater and harm wildlife.
Meanwhile, in Worcester, some officials say MORE pesticide treatments are necessary, and that the treatments should be expanded to include a much larger area.
And as the debate continues, the beetle marches on…