By K.B. Sherman, Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – The Board of Selectmen were updated on the status of the town's infestation of Asian Longhorned Beetles at its Sept. 11 meeting by Clint McFarland of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Russ Wilmot of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).
According to the two men, Shrewsbury and Boylston are experiencing a re-infestation of the nasty insects. Also known as the starry sky or sky beetle, it is native to China, Japan, and Korea. It has not been in the United States for a lengthy period but infestations have destroyed many native trees, especially red maple and beech, during its three-year life cycle.
McFarland and Wilmot told the board that the hardest-hit local area is the town-owned 13-acre wetland abutting Ireta Road, which is considered high-risk at this time for infestations. The DCR has been removing individual trees from private land surrounding the lot but the town portion must be done as well.
The men explained that infected trees will be cut down to the stumps. This measure will allow for quick re-forestation when new trees spring from the existing trees” root systems. When the removal is done, the former woodlot will have been razed of the most threatened trees, although the two men added that that the largest trees are unlikely to be infested and are most likely to be spared from becoming infested.
“The removal will affect 90% of the trees but only 70% of the tree mass,” McFarland added.
The board asked if the town would be reimbursed for the lost trees and for the cost of replanting them. Wilmot replied that there is not a lot of state money for replacements but that the lot should regenerate to head-high within 2-3 years.
He noted that the infestation can be seen through insect activity, fresh emergences from the wood, and egg deposits. While the insects stop after a hard freeze, their life-cycle means they kick-start in the spring as soon as the weather warms.
Selectman John Lebeaux wanted to know how the neighborhood would look after the trees had been removed. McFarland explained that for the next several years, neighbors would be able to look across the denuded lot and see their neighbors” homes.
McFarland explained that there would need to be more than one access from Ireta Road to the site because of the steepness of the terrain. He noted that the town's conservation commission will also be involved to ensure measures for wetlands protection were in place. Chair Maurice DePalo also sought and received assurance that the machinery and crew traffic would be scheduled to take into account the impact on the neighbors.
The board voted 5-0 to approve the cutting on the town land. A schedule for the project completion is set for six to eight weeks after it starts.