Parts of Brookline are under a wood-product quarantine today after experts discovered an infestation of the devastating Asian longhorn beetle in several trees in Jamaica Plain.
The six infested red maples, all located on the grounds of Faulkner Hospital near the Arnold Arboretum, were cut down and destroyed early this morning. A quarantine area three miles wide has been set up around the site, and state officials are optimistic that the infestation has been contained.
"So far, only six infected trees have been found here, and they were destroyed this morning." Ian Bowles, the state secretary for energy and environmental affairs, said in a statement. "We have a highly trained and skilled team with experience in the eradication efforts in Worcester, and the situation is in good hands."
Local environmentalists, however, fear the worst.
"If we can keep it to six trees taken down, that would be amazing," said Arlene Mattison, president of the Brookline Greenspace Alliance. "We have Worcester as an example, and we don't want that to happen to Boston and Brookline."
In a statement, the Brookline Parks and Open Space Division called the risk to Brookline's trees "a significant concern."
Yesterday's discovery marks the first time the beetles have been spotted outside the Worcester since 2008, when an infestation forced crews to cut down more than 25,000 trees there, many of them as a precaution meant to contain the devastating insects. Conservationists in the Boston area have long feared something similar could happen here.
While arborists scoure the Boston-Brookline area for more bugs, state and municipal officials have set up a wood quarantine area that stretches as far north as Route 9 in an effort to prevent their spread. While the quarantine is in effect, no wood or wood products may be removed from the designated area.
According to the state, the Asian longhorn beetle feeds on hardwood trees, including maple, birch and elm, and has no known predators in the United States. Experts believe the bugs came to the country in shipping crates from China several years ago.
The Arnold Arboretum, where the latest beetles were found, is linked to Brookline's Riverway and Olmsted parks by the Arborway and Jamaica Pond, all part of the Emerald Necklace park system.
Mattison said the Greenspace Alliance has volunteers at the ready to help scour Brookline's parks for signs of infestation and is waiting on direction from the state. The Alliance sent an email to members this morning to alert them of the discovery in Jamaica Plain.
Mattison described the prospect of an infestation in Brookline as "nightmarish."
"Can you imagine Brookline if all the street trees were gone?" she said. "Hopefully it won't be that – hopefully they've got it really fast."
To learn how to spot the Asian longhorn beetle, or to report a potential sighting, visit www.mass.gov/agr/alb.htm or call the toll-free Asian longhorn beetle hotline at 866-702-9938.
A community meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July 13, from 6 - 8 p.m. in the Franklin Park Clubhouse on Circuit Drive in Franklin Park. An education session for those involved in the wood and wood products industries will be Thursday, July 8, from 1:30-4:30 p.m. in the Franklin Park Clubhouse on Circuit Drive in Franklin Park.