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Invasive Asian Long-Horned Beetle Species Have Damaged American Forests, Says Peter Alsop ’95

“Insects have ruled the world a long time before we did, and humans are just borrowing it for a while,” said Peter Alsop ’95 to an audience in Kemper Auditorium last Wednesday. On Wednesday, Alsop warned his audience about the invasion of Asian long-horned beetles, and their destruction to the forests in nearby Worcester, Massachusetts. His presentation was sponsored by the “Speaking on Sustainability” series, which brings in educated speakers who discuss issues of sustainability or environmentalism. With no predators to check its expansion, the Asian long-horned beetle is an invasive species from China that, without proper control, could decimate forests throughout New England and the United States. Alsop told the audience that the United States has spent 250 million dollars on the eradication of the beetle. If the beetle is not stopped, it could cause 700 million dollars in tree damage and eradication programs, and kill 30 percent of all trees in the United States. His talk focused on the devastating effects the longhorn has already caused and will continue to cause if eradication efforts do not improve. Since its arrival in the northeastern part of the United States, the longhorn’s journey to Worcester has been fast and relentless. A New York resident first identified the longhorn in his backyard in Brooklyn, New York in 1996. The beetle then traveled through various parts of New York, including Queens, Long Island, Staten Island, and finally made its way to Worcester. Alsop discussed the damaging ecological effects of the longhorn’s infestation in Worcester. For months, he studied trees onto which the beetles had latched for months, and observed the eventual death of many of the trees in Worcester. The longhorn is not only a problem in America, however. Because infected trees are often cut down for lumber and then converted into shipping materials, trade and commerce have made it easy for the longhorn to cross oceans and national borders. Cases of the longhorn invasion have sprouted up in France, Italy, Spain and also England. Alsop talked at length about the Asian long-horned beetle, but his more important point lay in the problem of invasive insect species as a whole. Alsop said was that the Asian long-horned beetle was only one example of the invasive species that have forced the government to spend 1.3 billion dollars a year on control and eradication programs. The invasive species has the United States and the world both economically and environmentally, said Alsop. Amy Janovsky, a PA parent, volunteer and mother of David Janosky ’11, invited Alsop to share his research. Janovksy said, “Knowing [Alsop] is a graduate of Andover, I thought he would appeal to the students because he spent months in Worcester examining and studying the beetles.” “Worcester has to take drastic measures, cutting down 12,000 trees, and I thought it would be of the great benefit of the students to know what is happening in their community,” she continued. Keith Robinson, Instructor in Biology, said, “I think this presentation will help the AP Biology kids relate to their current studies, plants. The presentation also gives us greater awareness of the area and the amount of damage the beetle is doing to the area.” “It was good to hear from an experienced journalist with knowledge on this topic,” Robinson added. Alsop graduated from Wesleyan University in 1999 with a degree in religion. He earned a master’s degree from the Graduate School of Journalism at Berkeley. Alsop’s studies on environmental topics have appeared in publications such as Smithsonian, Salon, GOOD, California and The Washington Post. His article on the effects of the longhorn in Worcester will appear in Smithsonian.