Meet the Beetles: Worcester's Tree Problem
Like most old New England cities, Worcester has a lot of trees. And some of those trees are being invaded by a variety of not-so-fab beetles: the Asian longhorned.
The beetles - which destroy the trees they live in - are likely to have immigrated from China via packing crates containing yet more of the junk we can't live without - and which we're not so sure any longer that we can live with either.
The home town newspaper - the Worcester Telegram - has the scoop, although I did hear it first on TV news.
The plague being visited upon the trees in the Kendrick Field area of Worcester is not of the annoying-but-not-that-harmful variety. (I.e., the beetles aren't like the grotesque gypsy moths of yore, which invaded Worcester sometime in the last few decades. I remember one weekend we were all home to help my mother pry their larvae out from under the shingles on the house. A truly disgusting experience. They chewed up a couple of trees in the yard pretty badly, but didn't kill them. A year or two without leaves and they were back.)
No, the Asian longhorned beetle can do real harm, and The Feds have been called in.
The Department of Agriculture declared a state of emergency because if the beetle were to expand from quarantined areas “it has the potential to wreak havoc nationwide, affecting such industries as lumber, maple syrup, nursery and tourism and [cause] more than $41 billion in losses.”
So Worcester will be trying to figure out how many trees are infested, and come up with a plan to remove them - which apparently can't take place until after the first frost. Fortunately, first frost in Worcester tends to be early, so folks won't have to wait that long fretting about whether the beetles infesting their maple have jumped tree and are now boring into their weeping willow.
Removal ain't all that simple: special rules for discarding them involve burning the infested trees or grinding them into pulp.
Worcester isn't the first place in the States to meet the beetles.
They first showed up in Chicago a decade ago, and 1700 trees had to be destroyed before the hog-butcher-of-the-world was declared Asian longhorned beetle free. In the NY-NJ area, the beetles have claimed 6200 trees, and they're not home free quite yet. (It is just a coincidence that my mother, who spent 55 years of her life in Worcester, grew up in Chicago. And a further co-incidence that one of the only other cities here to have hosted these beetles, Brooklyn, was home for a number of years to my sister Trish and her husband John. Or is it??????*)
Knowing Worcester, the town will take some perverse pride in being one of the elite few to have longhorned beetle problems, especially given that cities like Chicago and Brooklyn are on the list. Chicago and Brooklyn, as we Worcester-ites tend to think of them, are "real" cities that people who aren't from have actually heard of and maybe even been to.
Meanwhile, Worcester's City Manager - another Worcester curiosity: in the late 1940's (I think) Worcester's good government types managed to push through a change in Worcester's government - out with the strong mayor system, in with professional management - has declared something that Telegram report Lee Hammond likens to "martial law" covering trees within a 1.5 mile radius of the area where a handful of infested trees have been found.
Residents - this is Worcester, after all: the Midwest of Massachusetts - will no doubt co-operate with federal, state, and local officials. Civilian trees will be replaced at no cost to the homeowner. But, of course, if you have an 90 year old horse chestnut tree, you're probably not going to be around to see your tree truly being replaced.
The Asian longhorned beetle....Just another one of the trade-offs we make for an endless supply of goods from China.
Yes, globalization is (mostly) for the good, and (absolutely) inevitable.
You can't protect yourself from everything, but in our lust for rock-bottom prices and endless consumption, we have sadly not done a lot of "what if" analysis on the implications of all this China trade.
And I do wonder just what was in those packaging crates that bore those pioneering Asian longhorned beetles to Worcester's back yard.
*"President Lincoln was warned by his secretary, who was named Kennedy, not to go to the Ford Theater. President Kennedy was warned by his secretary, who's name was Lincoln, not to go to Dallas, where he rode in a Lincoln Continental made by the Ford Motor Company...." [Am I the only person who remembers the ridiculous and tacky "co-incidence" record that was popular after JFK was assassinated? People would actually call up radio stations and request it, although I don't remember any "This one goes out for Skip and Mary, Joe and Linda, and Pete and Nancy." And certainly no one over said, "I give it a '5'. It was good to dance to.']