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USDA BEGINS FALL PILOT STUDY TO TREAT TREES AGAINST ASIAN LONGHORNED BEETLE

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Rhonda Santos (508) 799-8330
Andrea McNally (301) 734-0602

WASHINGTON, Sept. 17, 2009--The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) today announced a pilot study in Worcester, Mass., to determine if fall chemical treatments can be successful in helping to eradicate the Asian longhorned beetle (ALB). The pilot program begins this week and will treat approximately 600 ALB-host trees within the 66 square-mile Worcester-area quarantine.

Currently, APHIS treats susceptible host trees in an ALB quarantine during the spring and summer months with the chemical imidacloprid. Treatments are done at this time of year because the imidacloprid moves through a tree's vascular system and is ingested by beetles eating small twigs, as well as by larvae feeding below the bark. In 2009, APHIS treated approximately 66,000 trees throughout ALB quarantine areas in New York and New Jersey.

This pilot project will help APHIS determine if imidacloprid applied to trees in the fall is still present at sufficient levels to kill the ALB when the beetle emerges the following summer. The study will also look at whether or not chemical treatments in Massachusetts can be effective if applied in months other than just April, May and June. If APHIS could effectively add additional months for treating host trees, more trees could be treated in a larger area and speed up the ALB eradication process.

Similar to treatments in the spring, APHIS will apply the fall pilot project treatments to maple and birch trees through injections into the soil around the base of the tree or directly into the tree's trunk in mid September and again in early November. Trees in the pilot program will be randomly assigned and receive five chemical treatments at three different times. APHIS will compare the information collected from the fall applications to its applications next spring by examining leaves for imidacloprid residue at the end of June when the beetles emerge and in late August, near the end of the ALB's flight season.

The chemical treatments used in the ALB program are safe and contain the same active ingredient that is commonly used in the lawn care industry to kill grubs and in some domestic pet treatments to kill fleas. These treatments are applied by contracted, certified applicators to ALB-susceptible trees.

Adult ALB are about 1 to 1.5 inches long, and have a shiny jet-black body with distinctive white spots and long antennae with black and white bands. A homeowner discovered the first ALB infestation in central Massachusetts in August 2008.

The public can assist the eradication effort by allowing program officials access to their property to evaluate susceptible trees for any signs of ALB infestation and/or to treat trees that are susceptible to beetle infestation.

The Massachusetts ALB Cooperative Eradication Program is comprised of USDA-APHIS, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, the City of Worcester, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, the U.S. Forest Service and the towns of Holden, Boylston, West Boylston and Shrewsbury.

For answers about the beetle and program activities, please contact the Massachusetts ALB program at 1-866-702-9938 from anywhere in New England. Log on to www.beetlebusters.info or http://massnrc.org/pests/alb or www.aphis.usda.gov or for more information about ALB, including pictures and where to report a suspected beetle.

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