By Kathianne Boniello
At least when trees get vaccinated they don’t make a fuss.
About 40,000 Queens trees were slated to get their immunization shots this spring as the city and federal governments plan this year’s attack against the devastating Asian Longhorned Beetle, a city Parks Department spokeswoman said.
The beetle has killed thousands of trees in Queens since its discovery in the borough in separate 1997 infections in Sunnyside and Ridgewood. The insect wreaks havoc by burrowing into trees, laying eggs and tunneling back out, leaving holes that prevent the tree from photosynthesizing and eventually killing the plants.
Until last year, when roughly 7,600 trees in Queens were treated with an experimental pesticide called imidacloprid, the only way to prevent the spread of the beetle was to chop down infected trees, remove the trunks and destroy the tree’s remains by chipping them twice and burning them.
Imidacloprid, a pesticide used in store-bought lawn and garden products to kill lawn grubs, was tested on trees in Queens’ Calvary Cemetery in 2000. The insecticide works its way through a tree’s circulatory system until it is present in the plant’s leaves, twigs and bark, where the Asian Longhorned Beetle feeds.
This spring, workers in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Asian Longhorned Beetle Cooperative Eradication Program will inoculate 120,000 trees in the city and Long Island by injecting small capsules of imidacloprid at the tree base, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in an April 24 news release.
A Parks Department spokeswoman said about half of the 40,000 Queens trees to get imidacloprid were in parklands while the other 20,000 were on private property.
USDA Project Manager Joe Gittleman told the TimesLedger last year that imidacloprid was only effective against adult beetles. That means any trees already infected by Asian Beetle larvae when they were injected with the pesticide would still be victims of the bug.
Native to China, the Asian Longhorned Beetle was first found in western Queens in 1997, in Bayside in February 1999 and Flushing in August 1999, including Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The beetle made its U.S. debut in Greenpoint over the Brooklyn border before spreading to western Queens.
There is speculation that the beetles probably found their way to the United States as stowaways in wooden pallets and packing crates used for shipping.
Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.