Asian Beetle, New In This Country, Threatens Brooklyn's Shade Trees

ITHACA, N.Y. -- A tree won't grow in Brooklyn.

Cornell University scientists have confirmed what they believe is the first known infestation of an Asian longhorned beetle, Anoplophora glabripennis, a large beetle that is attacking Brooklyn's horsechestnut and Norway maple tree population.

The Norway maple is the most planted shade tree throughout New York state.

This beady-eyed beetle, about 1-inch long, has coal-black wing covers sprinkled with startling white spots. The black and white antennae are long and impressive; the beetles are not harmful to humans. However, it was found devastating trees in the Greenpoint neighborhood of northern Brooklyn.

U.S. border entrances are jealously guarded to keep such pests from infiltrating this country. This beetle's anthology: Native to Japan, Korea and the southern sections of China, this is the first time this beetle has been seen outside of Asia, said E. Richard Hoebeke, Cornell senior extension associate and assistant curator in entomology.

It did not have a ticket to ride. "I don't know how it got here from Asia," Hoebeke said. "As if the trees in an urban environment are not traumatized enough as it is. This doesn't bode well for a tree that is under a lot of pressure to grow."

New York City's Department of Parks and Recreation sent samples of the beetles to Carolyn Klass, Cornell Cooperative Extension entomologist in Ithaca, N.Y., to determine the species. Klass had not seen the species before and showed it to her colleague, Hoebeke.

"I gasped when I saw it," Hoebeke said. "I knew this wasn't a species native to North America."

These beetles might prove to be the ultimate Brooklyn dodgers. Short of cutting down the maple and horsechestnut trees, there is little that can be done to curb the Greenpoint infestation, Hoebeke said, adding that there are no known natural predators.

For back-up species confirmation, Hoebeke sent specimens to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pi

Contact: Blaine Friedlander Jr.
Cornell University News Service

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