Environmental Experts Fight War Against Tree-Eating Beetles
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State environmental officials have declared war on a tree-eating beetle which has infested trees in several local counties. The first goal isn't necessary to stop the Emerald Ash Borer, only to contain it.
According the State Department of Environmental Conservation, there are 900 million ash trees in New York state. And they're under the threat of attack – some, falling already to the voracious predator.
“This is the time to jump on this situation,” said Mark Whitmore, an entomologist at Cornell University’s Department of Natural Resources.
Whitmore and other experts are keeping a close eye on a small infestation of Emerald Ash Borer, which was found in Caledonia, Livingston County.
“We know this is on the landscape,” said John Gibbs, a forester with the DEC. “We need to be cognizant of what's going on.”
If undetected, the Emerald Ash Borer can kill a tree. The green beetles literally carve up ash trees from the inside.
To try and contain the spread, DEC is working with local communities to identify ash trees, and mark them – to make monitoring of the trees easier.
“Communities need to get an inventory of their trees so that they know what their exposure is and they can plan ahead,” said Whitmore.
Finding every ash tree is difficult, say experts.
“Early detection is key, with low densities, and that's very, very difficult,” said Gibbs.
The Emerald Ash Borer was first discovered in New York state in 2009. Since then, infestations have been found in five Western New York counties, and two in the Hudson Valley. Environmental officials say there is no way to eradicate it. They hope to contain the spread.
“Because we're ahead of the game, because the infestation is so low, education is a huge piece,” said Mary Underhill, Livingston County planning assistant. “Being able to find these trees, take them out, is essential to controlling EAB spread across Livingston County.”
Once an ash tree is infested, DEC says it should be cut down, cut up, and chipped. If applied before an infestation, treatment works. It is recommended only if close to an infestation, and it's useless, if a tree has already been hit.
Environmental officials say timing is critical.
“Once we get to the point where we're getting 350 - 400 growing degree days, these adults will be emerging from the trees,” said Gibbs.
War has been declared on the tree-eating insects. Victory over the Emerald Ash Borer takes a community effort, say experts.
“We're trying,” said Gibbs.