Report from the Center of the Infestation
When news came out a few weeks ago that emerald ash borers have been found near the Loudon-Canterbury line, for some reason I pictured somewhere on the other side of town Turns out our house is a couple hundred yards up the road from a spot that’s drawing the attention of entomologists from miles around.
The emerald ash borer is a beetle that probably was imported to North America from Asia and was first detected in Michigan in 2002. They are now found in 23 states plus 2 Canadian provinces. It attacks only ash trees, one of the major species of New Hampshire’s mixed hardwood forests.
The little green insect is a significant threat. Ash trees are not only handsome; the wood is also valuable for wood products, including traditional baseball bats. It’s great for firewood because it’s easy to split and can be burned green. Unless a natural predator arrives on the scene, the ash could go the way of the elm and the chestnut.
Several entomologists (bug experts) from Merrimack County Extension, the UNH Cooperative Extension, and the Division of Forests and Lands gave a presentation yesterday at Canterbury Shaker Village to help area residents identify the bug and learn what to do to control the outbreak and limit damage to ornamental trees.
The best ways to identify them are by looking for what the foresters call “blonding” of the bark, caused by the scratching of woodpeckers that feed on the bugs. An abundance of woodpeckers can also be an indicator. (Piera Sargent, the State
Entomologist, says that when people ask her what kinds of woodpeckers go after ash borers, she responds “hungry ones.”)
The bugs leave a characteristic hole when they exit the bark.
If you peel back the bark, you can also see a distinctive pattern of curvy “galleries” left by the ash borers.
Molly Heuss, also from the Division of Forests and Lands, showed us what the bugs look like and led a field trip into the woods to demonstrate what to look for in the bark of ash trees. Because ashes dry out quickly, she said, larvae die off pretty fast from cutting down trees. Bucking the logs for firewood or other uses speeds up the drying process.
Molly Heuss peels back the bark.
Other infestations have been identified in Concord and in Methuen, MA, just south of the state line. If you live in southern New Hampshire they are probably headed your way.
The state’s foresters want help finding EAB infestations. You can look at their easy-to-remember website, www.nhbugs.org, for more information on EAB identification and control.
Kyle Lombard, a forest entomologist with the Division of Forests and Lands, explained that a variety of chemical insecticides can be used to control the EAB if you catch the outbreak in time. Some chemicals can be purchased at garden stores while others can only be used by licensed applicators.
Living as we do in the middle of a forest that’s already heavily infested, trying to save any of the ashes on our property would have little impact.
But if I were living in a city or suburb where ashes serve an ornamental purpose, I’d be watching for signs of the EAB and figuring out whether anything could be done to save the trees.