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Shrewsbury clears trees to slow beetles

A crew from Northern Tree Service removed a tree in Shrewsbury infested by beetles on Thursday.

Bill Greene/Globe Staff

A crew from Northern Tree Service removed a tree in Shrewsbury infested by beetles on Thursday.

A tiny, invasive pest that feeds on hardwood is forcing the town of Shrewsbury to chop down hundreds of trees, leaving large parts of the countryside barren.

The infestation of Asian longhorned beetle that first struck Worcester in 2008 has slowly spread in the past five years, and conservation officials say they believe that felling large swaths of trees near infected areas is the only way to stop it.

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Shrewsbury Town Manager Daniel J. Morgado said the town is monitoring 95 acres of forested land, looking for signs of infestation. Some patches have already been cleared.

“It’s sad; it’s very sad,” said Morgado. “There’s that initial shock when you look at these areas and say, ‘Wow. That’s really, really bad.’ ”

The inch-long, black and white beetles first appeared in the United States in 1996, in Brooklyn, N.Y., after hitching a ride on shipments of wood ­pallets from Asia, says the US Department of Agriculture.

“It’s unfortunate that because we live in a global world these pests, these hitchhikers, can move in like this,” ­Morgado said. “We’re probably sending our own invasive species over there.”

The federal government is bearing the brunt of the cost for clearing the trees, he said. Two $70,000 grants from the state Department of Conservation and Recreation will pay for the town to reforest the cleared areas.

In the meantime, Morgado said, some Shrewsbury residents will be looking out their windows at a decidedly ugly landscapes of stumps.

Todd Feathers can be reached at todd.feathers@globe.com.

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