In March, federal and state agricultural officials trumpeted some good news to New Jersey residents: The state is officially free of the Asian Longhorned Beetle.
The declaration marked a victory against the invasive pest that was first seen in Jersey City in 2002. Over time, sate and federal agriculture officials found ALB-infested trees in Carteret, Woodbridge, Linden, and Rahway. Eradication efforts involved the removal of 21,981 trees in Union, Middlesex, and Hudson counties—about a third of which have since been replaced with trees less hospitable to the beetles.
Free at Last
“After more than a decade,” New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher announced in mid-March, “we can declare New Jersey is free of this invasive pest. We could not have accomplished this eradication without this coalition of federal, state, and local agencies, and of course, the citizens of New Jersey, whose vigilance was critical in this fight.”
The second state to declare itself ALB-free—Illinois claimed the designation in 2008 — New Jersey chalked up the victory to a “vigilant” public that was encouraged to inspect trees for signs of ALB damage and report any suspicious findings. “The public is our best defense against the beetle,” Victor Harabin, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) associate deputy administrator for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Plant Protection and Quarantine program. “Early detection is essential, and I want to thank the citizens of New Jersey for their efforts to stop the spread of this invasive pest.”
At the same time, other states are still battling the ravages of the insect that is thought to have arrived in this country via wooden pallets or packing materials. The beetles make bore holes in the host tree, eventually killing it, and have no known predators in this country. Since 2008, some $50 million in federal and state money has been spent on eradication. In central Massachusetts, entire neighborhoods were stripped of shade trees and an embargo has been in place in Massachusetts and elsewhere, prohibiting the movement of firewood because it could potentially harbor the voracious bugs.