Beetlemania is sweeping Brooklyn again.
Not the mop-topped species of Beatle of course, but the much more devastating longhorned, Asian variety.
The Department of Sanitation distributed fliers this month reminding homeowners not to put firewood or wood waste out on the curb, for fear that the tree-killing beetles might spread to other parts of the country.
The Asian longhorned beetle, a native of China, hopped across the Pacific and right into Greenpoint in 1996, leaving a path of felled trees in its wake.
In a year’s time, Greenpoint lost more than 2,000 trees to the insect, which bores deep into the wood to lay its eggs, which hatch inside and bore their way back out — leaving the trees ravaged with holes, leaking sap and slowly dying.
John Kupiec, founder of Neighborhood Roots, a community organization that pulled together to help replace Greenpoint’s lost trees, says he’s glad Sanitation is reminding people not to let the bug spread.
“When the crisis hit, there was federal money for cutting the trees down, but no money available for replanting and through our efforts we were able to get $2.7 million from the city, state and federal governments to plant 2,700 trees. And although we were sad to lose some of our mature trees, Greenpoint has never been greener.”
The Sanitation Department used to pick up wood with the rest of the garbage. But the agency stopped that service in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens in 2004, because federal law prohibited New York’s Strongest from collecting wood from places where the beetles are known to have nested.
Kupiec said the city could do a better job of coordinating disposal of waste wood, instead of putting the burden on homeowners to call the Parks Department, so they can chip the wood and haul it away to be burned.
“They could have designated pickup days for waste wood,” Kupiec said.
Brooklyn residents who have wood waste can call 311 to schedule an appointment with the Parks Department, which will chip the wood on site and dispose of it properly.