Teams of experts will check tens of thousands of trees in Boston and Brookline for Asian longhorned beetles, after six red maples were found infested with the bugs at Faulkner Hospital in Boston's Jamaica Plain section, state and federal officials said today.
The six infested red maples were removed today at 5 a.m. from the hospital grounds, but there are no immediate plans to cut down any more trees, and officials are hoping the infestation is an isolated case.
"The good news so far is this appears to be very localized," said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles.The officials said they were declaring a 1.5-mile-radius zone around the hospital in which firewood and other woody material could not be transported, in an effort to contain the bugs, if any more are found, to the area. All of the trees within that zone, which includes areas of both Boston and Brookline, will be checked by tree climbers and other surveyors, who are expected to work six days a week.
After the beetles were discovered in Worcester in 2008, more than 17,000 infested trees were cut down. Another 10,000 were cut down because of their proximity to the infestation.
The hospital is located across the street from Harvard University's 265-acre Arnold Arboretum. The arboretum is both a favorite place for residents to stroll and a leading center for the study of plants, one of whose goals, according to its website, is to preserve trees.
Officials said they would also launch an effort to educate the public about the beetles, and they had set up a hot line for people to report beetle sightings. The number is: 866-702-9938.
Experts have said Massachusetts has the most infested trees in the country, and more than $54 million has been appropriated in emergency funds in the event an outbreak reoccurs.
The beetles are believed to have come from China. They bore into trees and eventually kill them. They mainly attack hardwood trees, including maples, elms, willows, and birches. There are no known predators to stop the spread of the beetles, state officials said.
The infestation at the Faulkner was confirmed this weekend by officials from the US Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
The news came only two weeks after volunteers inspected the trees on Boston Common and were unable to find any traces of the beetles.
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