By John Anderson

Working at my desk this morning, I observed three guys wearing yellow safety vests and hardhats across the street. I went outside to see what was happening. They were from The Davey Tree Expert Company, and they were looking for signs of the Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) in my neighborhood.

According to the sign they put in the lawn, DAVEY is a contractor for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. “PROPERTY INSPECTION IN PROGRESS” was printed in bold beneath the smaller text reading “Asian Longhorned Beetle Cooperative Eradication Program.” The workers used binoculars to examine trees for signs of the invasive species: exit holes 3/8-3/4” in diameter, sap and sawdust are all signs of infestation.

I spoke briefly with a supervisor who declined an interview.  He did say that no beetles had been spotted thus far. According to research, trees that are most susceptible to infestation are maple, elm, willow, and horse chestnut.  Birch and sycamore trees have a slightly lower risk, and the inspectors were not looking at pine and oak trees since they are not considered to be good hosts.

According to the maps I have seen, my neighborhood (the Boyce St. area) is on the very periphery of the ALB danger zone. To that extent, I’m really glad these workers were having a good look, and I’m thrilled that no beetles have been found.  Ironically, the outer limit of DAVEY’s search was across the street from my house where the trees are mainly oaks and pines. There are three maple trees in my back yard.  I have regularly checked my trees every year, but I would never object to expert eyes.

Nobody wants to lose trees, and I certainly feel for area residents who have had their properties clear cut over the last five years. Eradication, on the other hand, is essential for many industries in New England. I cannot even imagine the devastation that would occur if Vermont’s sugar maples were infested. Eradication is very labor intensive and enormously expensive. It is also enormously necessary.