After a nearly decade-long battle, state foresters in New Jersey say they've nearly eradicated one of the state's tree-killing insects: the Asian longhorned beetle.
New Jersey agriculture officials have been battling an infestation by the Asian longhorned beetle since 2002, and it is believed the invasive species made its way to area in untreated packing crates and wooden palettes used to ship goods from China. Scientists will begin the last painstaking survey next month, going tree by tree to make sure they don't spot any of the pests.
"If the final surveys turn up negative, we expect within a year and a half to be able to declare it completely eradicated ... and that's a huge, huge win for the forests of New Jersey," said Carl Schulze, director of the Plant Industry Division within the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.
Infestations have also been discovered in parts of New York City.
Schulze said workers had to cut down about 22,000 infested trees in New Jersey forests and residents' backyards over a four-year period. He said no new infested trees have been discovered in New Jersey since 2006.
Foresters cannot declare the pest officially eradicated until the final survey is complete.
State officials are still working to eradicate other pests including the gypsy moth, the Emerald Ash Borer and the Southern pine beetle. Last year, the southern pine beetle destroyed 14,000 acres of South Jersey forests.
Since pest infestations flourish in the summer, Schulze said vacationers can play a role in helping to protect forests.
"If you're camping or if you're going to a cabin, buy your firewood locally so that you're not bringing new pests into the area that you enjoy," Schulze said.
In addition to cutting down infested trees, state foresters have worked to introduce predators for tree-killing pests. Foresters have replanted thousands of trees to replace infested ones.