Heres an interesting side road I stumbled across recently, and though its not about Colony Collapse Disorder, is has to do with one of those rock-and-a-hard-place situations you encounter sometimes, with no easy answers. The following information comes from a publication put out by the USDAs Animal, Plant, Health Inspection Service -- a.k.a. APHIS.
The Asian Longhorned Beetle comes from China and Korea and was introduced into this country in wood packing material. It was first discovered in 1996 in Brooklyn, New York, then Long Island, then in 1998 in Chicago. In 2002 it was found in New Jersey and now, in August this year in Worcester County, Massachusetts. This last infestation appears to be eight to 10 years old.
Adults are wood-boring beetles 1 to 1-1/2 inches in length, shiny black with small white markings on the body and antennae. After mating, the female beetles lay eggs on the surfaces of trees (Maples, Horsechestnuts, Willows, Elms, Birch, Mimosa, Hackberry, Ash, Sycamore and Planetree, Mountain Ash and Poplars). When the eggs hatch the larva tunnel into the tree, destroying the water- and nutrient-carrying capability of the tree. Severe infestations kill the tree. It takes a year for the larva to mature, pupate and emerge from the tree to mate and begin the cycle again.
Previous infestations have been successfully controlled and apparently eradication of the beetle in the initial areas has been successful. However, there is a significant difference between those earlier infestations and the new one in Massachusetts.
Worcester county and neighboring Middlesex county have a combined population of about 2.3 million people, with an average of about 600 people per square mile. There are 26 maple syrup producing farms in these two counties, and over 1,000 beekeepers there, too.
Treatment options for all the trees in these two counties are:
No Action ... which would result in the continuing spread of the beetle resulting in the death of ornamental and commercial trees, lumber and maple syrup industry problems, and eventual chaos due to individuals trying to save their respective trees and land values with uncontrolled and uncoordinated use of pesticides.
The preferred alternative for APHIS is that areas found to have the beetle should be quarantined and treated using cutting (chipping and burning of infested wood) and chemical treatments. Quarantines have little affect other than limiting those businesses that transport host trees and their products. Removing susceptible host trees (cutting and chipping) will affect local wildlife and a significant loss of aesthetics and quality of life for humans in the area.
Treating stumps of infested trees that were cut, chipped or burned with Garlon ® (an herbicide that inhibits regrowth of the tree from the stump) poses essentially no risk to people or animals because of the application technique and the isolation of the application.
But its the application of a pesticide to the trees that seems to be at issue, at least with the beekeepers in the area. Heres why:
The pesticide of choice is Imidacloprid, one of the infamous neonicitinoids that have gained recent world-wide recognition because of their contribution to alleged honey bee deaths, especially in parts of Europe.
APHIS is basing their recommendations on using this chemical from tests applying this substance as a seed dressing to sunflowers and corn, and on other tests on bumblebees. The little research on the effect of this on honey bees has so far been mixed. Moreover, the research that has been done on honey bees has been questioned ... some say the research was biased in favor of the chemical companies, others say it was biased in favor of beekeepers, while others say the experiments were poorly designed and show exactly nothing. The official word is as good as when opposing lawyers call in expert witnesses who counter each other in their testimony. Essentially no research has been done on honey bees and trees however, no matter what you think of the sunflower, corn or bumblebee work. Trees and bees ... zip, nada, nothing.
Many of these trees, particularly maples, are critical early spring food sources and in fact are favored nectar and pollen sources providing necessary food for spring build-up of honey bee colonies. This is particularly true in urban settings that dont have large foraging areas such as orchard, fields and meadows. Having these tree sources tainted, and APHIS implies they will be tainted, with this pesticide, though APHIS says the amount will be minimal, is, in the minds of beekeepers everywhere, a death knell for their colonies. Move em or they die is the feeling. Once again, bees and beekeepers come in second in the race to live. The trees win ... honey and maple syrup lose.
There is no doubt that the Asian Longhorned beetle is a tree killer and eradicating it should be a high priority. Ornamental, forest, and urban trees are in jeopardy and need protection or they will die. Replacing them is expensive for home owners who want trees in their yards and for municipalities that want street trees, park trees and forest and lumber trees in their area. Land values decline when trees disappear. This is not good for those in the business of maintaining real estate values ... a troubled-enough business at the moment.
Removing all trees that could be infected is silly. Removing only infected trees is expensive, but doable. But treating all trees with a systemic poison that is known to harm both bees and maple syrup production seems out of line, or, maybe not.
There will be a public comment period on the environmental impact of this plan on the APHIS website when it comes to bear, and if you have an opinion on this I urge you to go to their page, read the information and post an opinion.
Kermit the Frog once said it isnt easy being green ... heres one of the reasons he thought that way.
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.