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Asian Longhorned Beetle Discovered In Tree In Central Park

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A pest with the potential to destroy the city's trees is once again spotted in Central Park.

"Worst-case scenario, we could lose half of the trees in New York City," said Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe.

Park officials thought they rid Central Park of the pest seven years ago, but the city’s Parks Department said Thursday the Asian longhorned beetle was found in an elm tree near Fifth Avenue and 70th Street. Now the 40-year-old tree will have to be destroyed.

"The good news is that it was caught at an early stage," said Benepe. "What they found was egg sites. They haven't found any of the characteristic exit holes."

Dime sized holes on tree trunks indicate beetle larvae abound. The beetle has a black body, white spots and long curved antennae. Park officials are asking New Yorkers to be on the look out and to take notice of trees with holes or oval pits and coarse saw dust -- all signs the beetle has hit.

A team from the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been climbing and surveying trees in the park since mid-March. So far they say they have surveyed more than 1,100 trees and only the one is infested.

Once the infested tree is removed, intensive surveys of the surrounding area will be conducted.

"This damage is what kills the tree," said Benepe, demonstrating sections of a tree that was infested. "It essentially girdles the tree; it damages its systems of transporting water and nutrients."

"We've already had some pretty devastating infestation in some neighborhoods, particularly in Greenpoint, Brooklyn where we lost several thousand trees," Benepe continued. "We've lost over 4,000 trees in New York City."

The parks commissioner says park of the problem is the federal government has cut funding to get rid of the dangerous bug.

The last Asian longhorned beetle found in Central Park was three years ago. The insect has led to the removal of nearly 4,000 trees since it was first detected in the city in 1996.

Officials want to preserve the city’s millions of trees and prevent the beetle from spreading to the suburbs. The beetle bores into hardwood trees such as maples and elms and eventually weakens or kills them.

New Yorkers who spot any signs of the beetle's presence are asked to cal the city's helpline at 311.
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