Beetles post a threat to Catskill maples
By Jay Braman Jr.
What would the Catskills be like without maple trees?
That’s one question worth asking now that yet another invasive species is closing in on the region.
Like Gypsy Moths have in the past, the Asian long-horned beetle is now creeping toward the mountains. These bugs, which first showed up in Brooklyn harbor about a decade ago in packing crates from China, have since been found on Long Island and in parts of New Jersey. While they have not been found in the Catskills yet, DEC officials worry that they might end up here via the crates and other items that downstate visitors to the region bring with them. Should that happen, it might have the potential to have a bigger impact on local forests than Dutch Elm disease, chestnut blight and the gypsy moth combined.
Red and sugar maples, the preferred host for Asian long-horned beetles, dominate forests in the Catskills. And locations with outbreaks are close enough to the Catskills to pose a threat, officials say.
Asian long-horned beetles are about one to one-and-a half inches long, black and shiny with white spots and have long, distinguishable antennae that are banded with black and white. The beetles attack many different hardwood trees, including all species of maple, birch, horse chestnut, poplar, willow, elm, ash, mimosa, hackberry, sycamore, mountain ash and London plane.
The female beetle chews depressions in the bark of trees to lay 35-90 eggs that hatch within 10 to 15 days. The worm-like immature beetles then tunnel under tree bark and bore into healthy hardwood trees, feeding on living tree tissue during the fall and winter. After pupating, the beetles emerge through exit holes during the spring and then feed on tree exteriors for two to three days, then mate.
Unseasonable yellowing or drooping of leaves when the weather has not been especially dry are signs that the beetles are present.
Last June, the state Department of Environmental Conservation banned the import of firewood into the state unless it has been kiln-dried. The regulation also prohibits the movement of untreated firewood within the state more than 50 miles from its source.