West Babylon Students Become Junior Beetle Busters


The detection and reporting of Asian long-horned beetles by students at South Bay Elementary School in the West Babylon School District has become important to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. During an assembly, USDA representatives taught the students about the physical and destructive characteristics of this insect that has started to invade deciduous trees on Long Island, including the maple, elm, willow, poplar and horse chestnut.

“We are relying on children like you to locate the beetle and save the trees,” Joseph Gittleman, USDA New York project manager and “chief beetle buster,” told students. “Make sure that if you see any signs of an Asian long-horned beetle, you alert your parents and teachers so they can contact the USDA.”

During the assembly, master storyteller Jonathan Kruk engaged and educated the students with “Tale of the Beetles,” in which he expressively described the symptoms to look for in an infested tree and the characteristics of this colorful insect. He explained that the beetle is black with white spots, has blue legs and is equipped with extra-long antennae that search for bark to eat. Students also learned that the beetle leaves holes large enough to fit a finger, sawdust on the ground (frass), and dead or bare limbs at the top of the tree. Infested trees are cut down by the USDA, ground up and replaced with saplings to handle the infestation.

After the assembly, the students were given a hunt project packet to help them identify trees that may be blighted by the Asian long-horned beetle, along with USDA contact information. They were also deputized as “junior beetle busters.”