In April, a swarm of beetles from Southeast Asia infested trees at UC Irvine. Infected trees were found throughout Aldrich Park and in the residential areas surrounding the university.
The beetles are known as polyphagous shot hole borers. They are usually dark in color and rarely ever grow bigger than .1 inch long.
The beetles infest their hosts through their reproductive cycles. Beetles laying eggs into a tree brings a pathogenic fungus that becomes food for adult beetles and damages the pulp of the tree. While still in the tree, the larvae develop, mate and repeat the reproduction process. This kills the tree from the inside out, leaving them weak and brittle.
At UCI, about 1,000 of the 25,000 trees have been compromised by the beetles. The bulk of the trees infested were in the core areas near Aldrich Park and Ring Road. Campus staff and researchers are desperately trying to save the old native sycamore trees that have been strategically placed 40-50 years ago as a part of UCI’s campus atmosphere.
However, there is very little that can be done to save an infested tree. The possibility of trees collapsing due to beetle infestations poses a significant threat to students and visitors strolling through Aldrich Park and Ring Road.
As a result, over the summer, numerous trees were cut down, and the result is a noticeably emptier school.
Fortunately, many new trees will replace the ones that have been cut down. Factors such as size, appearance and maintenance are the primary considerations for possible tree replacements.
As they take visitors around campus, many campus representatives expressed their sadness and concern over the loss of the sycamore trees. As a student, alumnus, parent or visitor, Aldrich Park offered serenity and solace in the middle of a large campus. The abundance of those trees used to be a captivating feature of the park, offering shade to students and visitors.
“The trees were oddly an integral part of my four years at UCI, whether it was giving me some shade for a picnic or providing a backdrop for my senior photos,” said recent UCI alumna Danna Yang. “I’m sure cutting the trees was a last resort option, but it’s just a strange sight walking through a bare campus.”