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$33M for stamping out Asian long-horned beetle

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This is one beetle invasion Brooklyn can live without.

That’s why lawmakers last week announced $33 million to battle the Asian long-horned beetle, an invasive insect threatening nearly half of the city’s trees.

The U.S. House of Representatives last week passed legislation authored by Brooklyn Reps. Anthony Weiner and Michael McMahon, boosting funds to fight the insect. Approximately $21.4 million will go to New York City to fight against the beetle, which has infested and killed over 4,300 trees since its 1996 discovery in Greenpoint. The funding was awarded as part of the agriculture appropriations bill, which passed Congress and awaits the president’s signature.

For years, Weiner said he’s been urging more money for the beetle battle. “In New York City’s battle against the beetle, we saw a clear pattern %u2013 less money and more beetles. This funding boost will go a long way to ensuring that trees will still grow in all five boroughs,” he said. From 2001 to 2009, the Bush Administration cut money to fight the beetle in New York City by more than $30 million%u2013from $45 million to under $15 million, Weiner said.

Phil Abramson, a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, said there haven’t been any recent beetle findings in Brooklyn; the last finding in the city was in Staten Island this past January.Still, he said, survey, treatment and regulatory control continues in areas of Brooklyn. “There is an active quarantine zone that encompasses areas of Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and Staten Island,” according to Abramson. In Brooklyn the areas include Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Bushwick, Park Slope and Bedford-Stuyvesant.

The beetles originated in China, probably hitching a ride inside solid wood packing material, experts say. They have a presence in all the boroughs, except the Bronx; 47 percent of the city’s trees are at risk, Weiner noted.

Adult female beetles chew holes in the bark of healthy hardwood trees and lay up to 160 eggs. Once hatched, the beetle larvae bore into tree trunks and branches, feeding on the tree’s roots, stems and trunk.

From 2001 to the present, the USDA has spent more than $268 million to fight the beetle, which has since spread to Queens, Manhattan, Staten Island, Long Island, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Illinois. To improve eradication efforts, the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry is working on new pheromone-based traps that will reduce the need to remove infected trees in order to fight infestation. The only effective means of eliminating the beetle was thought to be to destroy infested trees by chipping or burning them. The agriculture appropriations bill includes $500,000 to fund six new trap demonstration projects around the state.

Signs of infestation include oozing sap, and round pits about the diameter of a pencil in the tree’s bark, produced when female beetles chew holes in the bark to lay their eggs. Early detection of infestations and rapid treatment is essential for stopping the spread of the insect, according to the USDA. If a beetle infestation is detected, call 1-877-STOPALB (786-7252).

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