While those of us in the print world don’t readily admit it, there’s power in television images that just can’t be replicated in words and still photographs. In light of this, we were happy to receive a copy of "Lurking in the Trees," a 30-minute film produced by the Nature Conservancy that gives viewers a first-hand look at the Worcester, Massachusetts, Asian longhorned beetle infestation. For people unfamiliar with the outbreak, the video will supply all the necessary background information. For those of us who have followed the events closely for the past year and a half through news reports, the video provides compelling images to further our understanding of what’s really going on.
Perhaps the most compelling moments of the film involve Donna Massie, the woman who first reported the beetle in August 2008. She’s not an entomologist, not a naturephile, just a regular person living in a regular house on a regular suburban street. Her husband had a beetle crawling on him in the backyard one day after work, and Massie took it upon herself to surf the web and find out what it was. She was laughed at at first when she told her husband she was calling the government; that is, until USDA-APHIS representative Patty Douglas showed up and confirmed the identification. Douglas remembers that she knew in five seconds that everything in her professional life was about to change. The same can be said for everyone living in the quarantine zone.
The film lurches in tone – swinging from ominous to hopeful at fairly regular intervals. This is to be expected, as the battle is still unfolding. The people of Worcester have done remarkable work removing infested trees (26,293 to date), instituting tree-planting programs to re-shade their barren streets, spreading the word. (While some people find war metaphors distasteful when applied to nature, they’re very hard to resist here; through this lens we’re all Muscovites watching our fellow Russians raze their crops to slow Napoleon’s advancing armies.) But all of this good work is tempered by the fact that the extent of the infestation is still not known and the beetle is by no means eradicated. Word on the ground has it that there are roadside piles of firewood just north of the quarantine zone, culled from ice storm-damaged maples, with handpainted signs proclaiming “free firewood.”
The film ends on hope, though, as it ought to. The fact is we still have a shot at containing this bug. For however voracious it is, it’s not inconspicuous, and it’s very slow moving. A nice touch in the film is the tour of Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood. ALB was detected and eradicated here. What were clearcut streets in the late nineties are today leafy boulevards. You’d never know what happened.
Click here to get your hands on a free copy of the film. Share it with your public access television station, your area schools, your bridge club. The spread of invasive insects can feel hopeless at times, but here’s something simple we can all do.