USDA Adds 18 Square Miles To Original Quarantine Zone On Long Island

AMITYVILLE, N.Y. (CBS 2) — The beetles are back.

They are pests that we thought were under control. Now, for the first time in five years, there’s a new infestation of the Asian long-horned beetle, CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported exclusively on Friday.

Asian long-horned beetles relentlessly chew up trees from the inside out.

“It chews its way out, leaving a perfect circular hole. It looks like someone did it with an electrical drill,” said Joseph Gittleman of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Just as the USDA was on the verge of declaring the pest eradicated on Long Island, a new infestation has been found.

“It’s a large disappointment. We hadn’t seen a live beetle since 2008,” Gittleman said.

War was waged on the Asian long-horned beetle in 1996 when it made its way from China to Brooklyn in packing material. Soon after, it turned up in Amityville on Long island, inadvertently transported in trucks or wood.

Since then, 20,000 trees have been lost and now there is the discovery of live bugs again, on nearly 200 trees north of Amityville — in and around Farmingdale.

The discovery means the area that has been quarantined for years will nearly double. The USDA has added an additional 18 square miles to the original 23 square miles, meaning all the trees in the newly discovered area are being inspected. Those marked “X” are coming down, Gusoff reported.

The beetles devour maples, willows, elms and chestnut trees. If left alone, officials said they decimate the landscape — a potential ecological catastrophe.

“Can you imagine driving upstate in the fall and not seeing the fall color because there are no maple trees or they are severely depleted?” Gittleman said.

Homeowners should be on the lookout for holes in bark and report sightings to the USDA.

“The beetles devastate the whole neighborhood. It’s sad,” Farmingdale resident Jawhar Jordan said.

“These things are prolific and dangerous. It’s amazing to see the damage they cause,” said wildlife expert Rob Alvey from the Garden City Bird Sanctuary.

It can take decades to eradicate the beetles. Officials said they are in some ways back to square one.

Trees will be chopped down in the coming weeks. The quarantine means wood from infested trees cannot be taken out of the area before being chipped, Gusoff reported.

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