January 30, 2012

Facing Environmental Disaster

I've been waiting for two years to write about this - and to avoid any bad juju, I just avoided writing about it. But now, I need to face the inevitable - we in Worcester Massachusetts are facing a biological disaster, and my garden in smack dab in the middle of it. We may loose every deciduous tree in the government finds one hole from a not so tiny beetle from China. The Asian Long Horn Beetle - recently escaped from wood shipping containers from China, is threatening the existence of hard-wood trees in parts of North America, and Europe.

I live in a small part of Worcester County in Massachusetts where the Asian Long Horn Beetle has been found. Two years ago, we joked a little that the beetle, if it came from anywhere, came in one of our rare plant shipments ( it's didn't), but the joke quickly became serious when the government swept in and quarantined half of our county, and then proceeded cut down every deciduous tree in a 5 mile radius in an attempt to stop the infestation of this destructive beetle that now threatens most every deciduous tree in North America. With many host species such as maple, ash, birch, oak and most every tree except evergreens, we have been keeping our eyes open for the tell tale holes found in infested trees. 
As of today, nearly 20,000 trees have been cut down in our county. No wood or wood products can leave our county since the government quarantine has been enlarged to now include our property. 
Government Inspectors search carefully for Asian Long Horned Beetles in our mixed shrub border amidst Japanese ground bamboo ( Sasa vietchii). I think that they enjoyed some of the species that we had, asking for the names of all of our Japanese maples, Davidia and Stewartia species.

Then, this morning,  I awoke to scene reminiscent of those found in one of those bad SciFi channel disaster films - 5AM, a knock on the door, and a team of agents in uniforms, clipboards, cameras and various scientific devices began sweeping through our garden. As I picked up the morning paper, I thought " Maybe a UFO crash landed in the back yard", as a helicopter roared overhead.

Men and women in uniform, entered the garden from all entrances.They opened gates, looked in the greenhouse, and out in the woods out back, spot lights, and a crowd of officers in safety vests looking up into the trees. Actually, most of these very official looking officers are students, employed by the government's beetle buster program. And all were very polite, and curious about many of our rare trees. The good news? We 'passed' this phase, although I was instructed to call the government program for next steps.

We passed this phase!

Two years ago, the only infested area was a small area near Chicago, a section in New Jersey, and our city in Massachusetts. As you can see, the threatened area has been expanding. To learn more about the Asian Long Horned Beetle, please visit the US Government's Beetle Buster site.


  1. That's great that they didn't find any beetles in your property. I had the USDA visit my garden last year for the same thing. http://nycgardening.blogspot.com/2010/08/unannounce-visitors.html

  2. Scary stuff. This sounds similar to our city getting quarantined because of Japanese beetle, which hadn't been seen here before. They speculate it showed up from someone bringing it in on a plant shipment. The city government then began an eradication program that mandated spraying who knows what all over everything. If you were at the center of the infestation, you weren't allowed to grow any garden produce for 5 years! Fortunately, we're at the end of it. I hope you don't end up losing even more trees because of this.

  3. Wow...talk about surreal...and scary! It's frightening to see how much they've spread in such a short time :-(

  4. I have been aware of this threat for some time and being reminding of it as well as reading of your personal concern, creates a pain in my stomach... We are of course just north of Illinois... our biggest concern right now is the emerald ash borer and I have been planting for the day when our ash trees could have to go. A very sad state of affairs to say the least... Larry

  5. Damn. I hate to hear stuff like this. Thank you for sharing though. The more people know, the better the chances of dealing with it properly.

  6. The Walnut tree is facing the same kinds of threats from the Black Walnut Tree beetle. I actually posted a blog about this over at http://iboplanet.wordpress.com/2011/12/15/79/ a while back. This needs to be monitored so thanks for writing about this.

    My team and I are actually working on a Botany/Horticulture/Environmental Technology project over at www.i-bo-planet.com to help people around the world – those “less versed” in botany, gardening and horticulture – learn more, in an interactive way, about the wonderful plant and tree life that surrounds us daily. Most know so very little about these things and our goal is to educate so that through awareness, and maybe a little increased knowledge, we can help to save plant and tree species that so desperately need our attention.

    Thanks for you posts and I look forward to see more of them as you write them.


  7. Nothing could upset me more than the prospect of losing my trees. Looks like you dodged the first bullet... best of luck in your garden!!!

  8. And I was worried about ticks. Great blog!

  9. Anonymous10:35 PM

    Id find a lawyer and fast. The government can be very determined and all it could take is one uneducated government employee having a bad day to ruin your carefully planned masterpiece because "they saw a beetle". Trust me they are not here to help...

  10. I will neve forget the class I took with Ralph Snodsmith on basic gardening back in 1999 when he said that the Asian longhorn beetle was the single most important thing he was going to teach us about.

    Is there a chance they will come in and cut down all your trees? That would be horrible. On my fathers property in northern NJ we lost about a dozen eastern hemlocks to wooly adelgids. It was so sad as they were absolutely beautiful trees that screened our view of the neighbors backyard.

  11. LOL, I'm not a conspiracy theorist, so no worries there. These inspectors, though young, were quite educated and polite. Besides, the program has many steps in their process, as they evaluate insect damage - it takes more than one beetle before the cut down the entire yard. If they have to, they have to, this is not something we should treat lightly. Our mature Hemlock grove with more than 20 trees also needs to be cut down, I've been trying to save it from the wooly adelgid, but I am afraid that I am losing the battle without oil spray and insecticides. We've already lost a 220 foot long hemlock hedge to the pest.


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