New species of wood-boring insect discovered in Brooklyn

A new insect species was recently discovered during a tree survey at Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery.

The 4-millimeter-long Wood-Boring Jewel Beetle was found from a wood sample pruned from a beech tree planted at the cemetery. Researchers could tell that this new beetle belonged to the same vast Agrilus genus as the emerald ash borer, but when scientists compared it to the 1,500 Agrilus specimens in Czech University of Life Sciences researcher Eduard Jendek’s collection, it didn’t match any of them. 

Scientists say the species is temporarily being named Agrilus 9895.

“The male genitalia didn’t match anything we have on file,” said Marc DiGirolomo, the Forest Health Technician who first spotted the beetle.

DNA analysis later confirmed it was a new species and narrowed its closest relatives down to a small group of Agrilus species in Europe. DiGirolomo says that even its closest relatives are sufficiently different from 9895 in size, shape, color, and genitalia.

The key distinction lies in 9895’s choice of home, the European beech tree. Though the beetle’s close cousins are European, none are known to bore into European beech, and DiGirolomo stated that 9895 could not have ended up in the tree by accident.

Wood-boring beetles, he says, “have evolved over thousands of years to have specific relationships with different kinds of trees.” A beetle like that is far more likely to die than find a replacement tree.

Agrilus 9898 has damaged the outer twigs of the plants it has infested, but DiGirolomo does not think it poses a serious threat to the trees. To better understand the insect and its potential impact on Green-Wood’s trees, the National Forest Service will fund a three-year study of trees throughout Brooklyn.