ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New York's environmental agency wants to bolster its battle against invasive Asian longhorned beetles by tapping into a widespread network of bug traps: backyard swimming pool filters.
The Department of Environmental Conservation is recruiting pool owners to participate in a survey through Aug. 30 to watch for the beetles before they cause serious damage to forests and street trees.
Asian longhorned beetles have killed hundreds of thousands of trees across the country by boring into the trunks. There has been heavy damage to maples in parts of New York City, Long Island, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Ohio and Illinois. Foresters have responded by cutting down and removing infested trees.
Biologists say pool monitoring is simple and cheap, and has the potential to become the most effective method of detecting the beetles. Vermont and New Hampshire also have citizen pool-monitoring programs, although no Asian longhorned beetles have been reported in those states.
New Jersey and Illinois officials say their states are now free of the tree-killing beetles that were first detected in the U.S. in 1996. More than 20,000 trees were removed in three New Jersey counties as part of its eradication effort.
In New York, agriculture officials said in May that the beetle had been eradicated from Manhattan and Staten Island, and that central Long Island, Brooklyn and Queens were the only places in the state with known infestations.
People who sign up for New York's pool-monitoring program will be sent a sheet with photos and descriptions to help identify insects collected. If they find a suspicious-looking bug, they're supposed to take a picture and send it to DEC, then freeze the insect until a biologist can make a positive identification.
People who don't have pools can also participate by sending in photos if they find an Asian longhorned beetle. Residents can sign up at http://bit.ly/afpRZJ .