BY KEVIN LIMITI

Local politicians, officials from the US Department of Agriculture and others celebrated the successful extermination of the destructive Asian Longhorned Beetle from Brooklyn and Queens, completing the elimination of the invasive species from all New York City.

 The mood was a victory lap for environmental and agricultural officials and workers. A tree shaped cake with beetle covered frosting on the leaves was served to USDA workers after officials posed for a picture, ceremonially planting a tree at McCarren Park, blocks away from where the first beetle was discovered infesting Norway maple trees in 1996.

The bug has already been eradicated in 2013 from Staten Island, the Bronx, and Manhattan, where it had infested trees in Central Park.

Considered an invasive species, the insect is native to eastern China and Korea but was accidentally introduced to the United States and is dangerous to trees because of its larval feeding behavior. When the beetle infests trees, it could destroy 30% of urban foresting and cause hundreds of billions of dollars in economic damage.

New York State Environmental Conservation Director Steve Zahn said that his dark clothes were appropriate because while the event was celebratory, “From the Asian Longhorned Beetle’s perspective, it’s a bit like a funeral,” he said.

Zahn commended the “herculean effort” to stop the spread of the Longhorned Beetle by removing 3,000 host trees and other methods such as conducting surveys of campgrounds for contaminated firewood, which is a common way the beetle spreads.

USDA official Samantha Simon called the species an, “invasive, destructive pest,” and praised the elimination of the species as a victory for protecting property values and the maple industry, which is adversely affected by tree contamination.

Liam Kavanagh, Department of Parks and Recreation official, stressed the difficulty they had dealing with the beetle when it was discovered, calling it a “very bleak time.”

“It didn’t look like we were ever going to get rid of it,” he said. “I thought we were going to have to live with it. Through persistence, through constant vigilance. . .we were able to ride out the threat and eventually eliminate the beetle.”

Christopher Logue, Plant Industry Director at the USDA, praised the cooperation between the various government agencies responsible for eliminating the pest. “The collaboration we have had on the Asian Longhorned Beetle was key to getting to this day.” He attributed the “aggressive role in controlling the pest” with the success which included quarantining and educating people on infestations.

“This is a shining example of success,” Logue said.

Photo by Kevin Limiti