Emperor Ash Beetle risk seen

NORTHSHIRE - Vermont ash trees are at risk, not from fires or logging, but from the Emerald Ash Borer Beetle that has already ravaged central and eastern states in the past handful of years.

According the emeraldashborer.info, it is an exotic beetle that was discovered in southeastern Michigan in the summer of 2002. The adult beetles nibble on ash foliage but cause little damage. The larvae feed on the inner bark of ash trees, disrupting the trees ability to transport water and nutrients. The Emerald Ash Borer probably arrived in the United States on solid wood packing material carried by cargo ships or airplanes originating in its native Asia.

The pest has now made its way on three borders of Vermont, making its way to New York, Quebec, and most recently Massachusetts. The bug can also be found in Michigan, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Ontario.

"It has spread quickly because of people traveling between the infected states and transporting firewood," said Forest Health Program Manager for the Department of Forests, Park and Recreation, Barbara Burns. "The spread also tends to be here and there, spotty - it doesn't spread like syrup on a pancake."

The adult beetle is dark metallic green, bullet-shaped and about 8.5 millimeters long, smaller than a penny. The body is narrow and elongated and the head is flat with black eyes. They start mating only one week after being born and females begin laying eggs two to three weeks later. They live for roughly one year, however they are only adults of two months.

The Emerald Ash Borer infestation pattern is similar to a locust plague in that populations grow exponentially after it is introduced to an area. In approximately 11 years, it can wipe out all ash trees within a sizable area.

In a typical scenario, each year the population multiplies by a factor of 50. By year nine of an infestation the population originating from just one female will be nearly 1 trillion insects.

In year 10 it will be 50 trillion.

"It is really only a matter of time before we find it in Vermont," said Burns. "What we have been doing is running drills to be ready to deal with the problem when it arises and trying to initiate community awareness and preparedness plans."

With the bug now at the boarders of Vermont, the State of working hard to keep the bug out of our area, since nearly 10 percent of all trees in Vermont are ash. The United States government has issued a quarantine for the infected areas to prevent infested ash firewood, logs or nursery trees from being transported and starting new infestations.

"We encourage people to buy local wood and to not transport wood between states," Burns said. "That way we can prevent the spread here as long as possible. Now that it is on three of our boarders to our north, south, and west we have to be extra cautious of the situation.

In individually infected trees it is difficult to see symptoms in the first one to two years. Typically, in the third year the tree will exhibit significant symptoms. By the end of the fourth year the tree will be dead.

That is why Burns said that if anyone believes they have seen the Emerald Ash Borer Beetle that they should contact the Vermont Department of Forests, Park and Recreation or their local forestry division and notify them immediately.

"Even if it is a false alarm we are happy to make sure that it is not the Emerald Ash Borer Beetle," Burns said. If the problem gets any worse throughout the country the baseball bat company Louisville Slugger might go out of business, since a large portion of Louisville Slugger bats are made out of ash wood. If that is the case, Boston Red Sox hero David Ortiz, along with many other Major League Baseball players, might have to become accustomed to a change in batting equipment.


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