It's been over a decade since the Asian longhorned beetles, a nuisance tree-eating bug with no natural known enemies, started destroying woods in Middletown and other communities.
On Thursday, the NJ Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher declared Middletown and the rest of the state to be officially free of the pests.
“We could not have accomplished this eradication without this coalition of federal, state, and local agencies, and of course, the citizens of New Jersey, whose vigilance was critical in this fight," Fisher said in a statement.
Fisher was joined by other federal, state, and local officials in a tree planting ceremony in neighboring Linden - another of the municipalities whose trees were devastated by the beetle.
The beetle was first found in Jersey City in October 2002, which was quickly followed by the discovery of infestations in Woodbridge, Carteret, Linden, and Rahway. To eradicate the bug, 21,981 trees were removed in Middlesex, Union, and Hudson counties. The infested trees were then taken to the Covanta resource recovery facility where they were converted to electrical energy to power some 30,000 homes and businesses.
About a third of the trees have been replanted with species that are more resistant to the invasive beetle.
Eradication announcements for Manhattan and Staten Island, N.Y. are also expected this year.
Homeowners are encouraged to inspect trees on their property for signs of damage caused by the insect and report any suspicious findings. The sooner an infestation is reported, the sooner efforts can be made to quickly contain and isolate an area from future destruction.
People should also be mindful of moving firewood, as moving ALB-infested firewood can unintentionally spread the pest.