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Invasive Beetle Forces Worcester To Cut Down 500 More Trees

WORCESTER (CBS) - The City of Worcester has signed off on a federal plan to cut down 500 more trees – in a renewed effort to head off the spread of the Asian Longhorned Beetle.

"Look at the pretty trees," Anthony Maloney told his two young children as they stood in their front yard on Colby Avenue – pointing across the street. But even as he encouraged his kids to enjoy the greenery, he lamented its demise. "Because I wouldn't have bought this house if I knew all these trees were going to be ripped out," he says. "The woods make it feel like you're not really in the city."

Longhorned Beetle
Asian Longhorned Beetle (WBZ-TV)

Beginning later this month, the woodsy buffer between his neighborhood and the Green Hill Golf Course will lost to the Beetle eradication effort. "It's going to be really bright," says Maloney. "There's not going to be any shade."

Thing is, the beetles would eventually accomplish the same thing – boring into trees and killing them. About a dozen beetle-infested trees have already been cut down in this wooded strip. But the U.S. Department of Agriculture says 500 more will get the axe as "high risk."

Many are Norway maples – a beetle favorite. Experts believe the longhorned beetle came to this country as a stowaway in Chinese shipping crates. Since it was discovered in Worcester in 2008, more than 30,000 trees have been chopped down trying to get rid of it – dramatically changing the landscape in some neighborhoods.

"It's prevention," sighs homeowner Sandi McGurrin. "It's absolutely prevention. I don't think they'd be taking all those trees if it wasn't necessary." McGurrin gets the plan. Four infested maple trees were just removed from behind her house.

But she's not looking forward to losing the woods that now knock down most stray golf shots from nailing her house and dinging her car. "Free golf balls," she says – laughing off the aggravation.

Of course, the saplings planted as replacement won't grow overnight – giving neighbors like Anthony Maloney a golf course view he doesn't want.

"It's not gonna be very private," he says. "When they cut them down it's going feel like I live on a golf course – which I guess a lot of people would like."

But federal experts hope cutting these five acres might save hundreds of acres nearby.

"Yeah, they're gonna cut the trees down," Maloney told his kids.

The tree cutting along Green Hill, Colby, and Trinity Avenues will begin in late July and stretch into early August.

Meantime, a thousand beetle traps have been set in Worcester County, and experts plan field surveys in the coming months to make sure they're getting the upper hand.


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