'97 beetle find is confirmed.


Byline: Lee Hammel

WORCESTER - The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed yesterday that the big black beetle with white markings that a local pest control company has had in its collection since 1997 is an Asian longhorned beetle.

That means that Ford's Hometown Services had the beetle in its collection four or five years before the time the Department of Agriculture believed that the beetles arrived in Worcester. It could mean the beetles have had that much more of a head start to spread farther and chew holes in maples and other of its favored trees.

The presence of the beetle, native to China, was reported by a woman on Whitmarsh Avenue the weekend before it was announced at a press conference held by city, state and federal officials on Aug. 6. At the time they announced that trees, branches and other wood from those trees would not be allowed to be taken outside of a quarantined area centered around Whitmarsh Avenue and West Boylston Street. The quarantine zone began with a 1.5-mile radius and grows as inspectors find more infested trees - 700 trees at last report.

Worcester is the fourth area of the United States where the destructive wood borer has been found. It was first found in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1996, followed by in the Chicago area in 1998, and in New Jersey in 2002 and 2004. It is believed the beetles arrived in wooden shipping materials from Asia.

If the beetles have been in Worcester since 1997, that is only one year after they were found in Brooklyn.

Christine Markham, director of the USDA's national Asian longhorned beetle eradication program, noted that the origin of the beetle in Ford's collection is uncertain. While Jeff Ford, co-owner of the company, says he does not know exactly who brought the specimen into the company 11 years ago, he said virtually all of the specimens brought in from customers come from within two miles of the company in northern Worcester, or no more than four or five miles.

He said he did not realize it was the Asian longhorned beetle, rather than another longhorned beetle, until the Telegram &amp...

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