Quantcast

The Invaders: Emerald ash borer - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

The Invaders: Emerald ash borer

Posted: Updated:
CONCORD, N.H. -

Soldiers on a reconnaissance mission-- a battle in the streets of Concord, N.H. The convoy has a list of targets, a list of suspected locations where the enemy may be hiding in plain sight. Some come up empty; others are out of reach. It's a war that's tough to win when you can barely see the army, no larger than a penny.

Despite the small size, the tree pest known as the emerald ash borer has left a wake of destruction across the U.S. Like the name might suggest, it's an exotic beetle that goes after one type of tree in particular: ash. The ash borer feeds on the inner bark of trees and lays its larvae deep in the wood, destroying the tree from the inside out.

"Emerald ash borer is the most devastating forest pest we have in North America right now," said Kyle Lombard of the N.H. Division of Forests and Lands.

Experts say it's the collateral damage of globalization. Before 2002 it had never been detected in North America. Originally found in Asia, U.S. forest officials say all that was known about the metallic green, half-inch bug was two paragraphs in a Chinese textbook.

Now, it's infected 19 states and that number continues to grow. The latest is New Hampshire-- just discovered in March-- where conservative estimates from the USDA have the cost of tree treatment, removal and replacement at $250 million.

Most New England cities and towns line their main streets and plant their parks with ash trees. Now, local and state governments are facing the cost of removing the trees infected with the invader and replacing them with another type of tree not susceptible to the bug.

Kyle Lombard is New Hampshire's general in the battle against the ash borer.

Reporter Steve Bottari: Here in New Hampshire, is any of that money already budgeted?

Kyle Lombard: No, nobody has that money budgeted. And so any effort we can make right now to control this small outbreak that we have and keep it contained, that will save millions of dollars over the next few decades for other regions that don't get infected.

Containing the outbreak isn't just about saving money for taxpayers, it's about protecting livelihoods. Lombard says jobs are at risk, like the state's lumber industry which relies on ash to make everything from tool handles to baseball bats and those who sell firewood.

At public meetings the questions are tough and the solutions aren't clear. Right now the state says it can't beat the bug, only slow its movement.

"We know we're going to have to live with emerald ash borer in our forests forever," Lombard said.

The cost of doing nothing though, they say, is potentially every single ash tree in the state. So, the state has created a quarantine in the county around the capital-- no wood in; no wood out. Firewood is largely blamed for the invasive species spread. Experts say if you stop the spread of firewood, you can slow the ash borer to a halt.

Suspect trees are taken for testing back to the forest army's makeshift camp, where volunteer soldiers from across New England identify infested trees in a garage that actually used to house military tanks. The state coordinates the fight from a trailer normally reserved to battle wildfires, trying to stop the spread of a different forest threat. Surveying and planning now, preparing for action later; cutting down trees, using chemicals and even releasing genetically-modified wasps at $4 a piece are all options the state says it's considering to contain the ash borer.

"We're getting a chance to help out our neighbors," Windsor County Forester Sam Schneski Windham said.

Vermonters are among those working in Concord, worried the emerald ash borer has already been found in New York, Massachusetts, Quebec and now New Hampshire, worried they'll soon be facing the invader in the Green Mountains.

"Ash is a key component of a lot of our forests in Vermont," Schneski Windham said. "I think it's a matter of not if we find it, but when we find it."

And so they're taking the fight to them in the streets of New Hampshire's capital. Consider it urban forestry warfare. In Concord, the battle against these bugs is really only just getting started. But if you journey an hour south, you'll see where the crusade to crush the invaders has left a wake of destruction that looks more like a warzone.

New Hampshire forest officials say early detection is key. Computer models have the ash borer in Vermont within the next five years. If it's found early enough, they say it could save Vermont tens of millions of dollars.

You want to look for what foresters call blonding. On infected trees, woodpeckers and other birds chip away at the outer bark trying to get to the ash borer, exposing the lighter bark. They say that's the telltale sign. If you see it, call your county forester to check it out. You might just save the state millions.

Click here for tips on how to identify ash trees.

Related Stories:

The Invaders: Asian longhorned beetle

The Invaders: Honeysuckle and Buckthorn

  • Local NewsMore>>

  • N.H. man killed in Lunenburg crash

    N.H. man killed in Lunenburg crash

    Monday, September 1 2014 11:33 PM EDT2014-09-02 03:33:55 GMT
    One man is dead following a tractor trailer rollover in Lunenburg.
    One man is dead following a tractor trailer rollover in Lunenburg.
  • 2 charged with skid-steer joyride on I-89

    2 charged with skid-steer joyride on I-89

    Monday, September 1 2014 10:15 PM EDT2014-09-02 02:15:25 GMT
    The theft of some construction vehicles caused chaos on the Interstate this weekend.
    The theft of some construction vehicles caused chaos on the Interstate this weekend.
  • Bike racers wrap up weekend events

    Bike racers wrap up weekend events

    Monday, September 1 2014 9:59 PM EDT2014-09-02 01:59:03 GMT
    The Green Mountain Stage Race took to the streets of Burlington Monday.
    The Green Mountain Stage Race took to the streets of Burlington Monday.
  • Allergy sufferers brave ragweed season

    Allergy sufferers brave ragweed season

    Monday, September 1 2014 7:08 PM EDT2014-09-01 23:08:26 GMT
    If you're sneezing, your nose is running and you're eyes are itchy once again this year -- you're not alone. Fall pollen counts are peaking in our region and proving tough for allergy sufferers looking to enjoy the outdoors.Despite a spate of heat and humidity, the signs of fall are undeniable. Cooler temperatures and color are on the way. And even though many think of spring as "allergy season" due to tree pollens, this time of year can be particularly tough for allergy sufferers, too -- bec...
    If you're sneezing, your nose is running and you're eyes are itchy once again this year -- you're not alone. Fall pollen counts are peaking in our region and proving tough for allergy sufferers looking to enjoy the outdoors.Despite a spate of heat and humidity, the signs of fall are undeniable. Cooler temperatures and color are on the way. And even though many think of spring as "allergy season" due to tree pollens, this time of year can be particularly tough for allergy sufferers, too -- bec...
  • Holiday drivers find lower prices at the pump

    Holiday drivers find lower prices at the pump

    Monday, September 1 2014 6:59 PM EDT2014-09-01 22:59:21 GMT
    Drivers this holiday weekend found lower gas prices at the pump.
    Drivers this holiday weekend found lower gas prices at the pump.
  • Sanders addresses Labor Day rally

    Sanders addresses Labor Day rally

    Monday, September 1 2014 6:51 PM EDT2014-09-01 22:51:52 GMT
    Community members gathered in Burlington's Battery Park Monday to celebrate Labor Day -- and hear from Senator Bernie Sanders.Union leaders addressed the importance of employees supporting one another. They also thanked the community for supporting Vermont's unions. Senator Sanders says the holiday is for working people to not only celebrate their gains, but to also address issues facing the working class."There's a lot of work in front of us if we're going to make sure that our kids and our ...
    Community members gathered in Burlington's Battery Park Monday to celebrate Labor Day -- and hear from Senator Bernie Sanders.Union leaders addressed the importance of employees supporting one another. They also thanked the community for supporting Vermont's unions. Senator Sanders says the holiday is for working people to not only celebrate their gains, but to also address issues facing the working class."There's a lot of work in front of us if we're going to make sure that our kids and our ...
  • Authorities seize animals from Santa's Land

    Authorities seize animals from Santa's Land

    Monday, September 1 2014 4:32 PM EDT2014-09-01 20:32:03 GMT
    The Windham County Sheriffs Department says it seized multiple animals from the theme park this weekend.
    The Windham County Sheriffs Department says it seized multiple animals from the theme park this weekend.
  • Body discovered in Massena

    Body discovered in Massena

    Monday, September 1 2014 4:02 PM EDT2014-09-01 20:02:43 GMT
    New York State Police are investigating an unidentified body found in Massena.
    New York State Police are investigating an unidentified body found in Massena.
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and WCAX. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.