New beetle infestation pesters Arboretum

July 30, 2014
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EABJamaica Plain is facing another infestation of a tree-killing beetle, just months after the end of a multi-year quarantine related to a different insect.

A single specimen of the emerald ash borer (EAB) beetle was found in a trap at the Arnold Arboretum on July 16, and was confirmed by federal officials on July 18. Suffolk County is the third county in the Commonwealth to have a confirmed detection of EAB.

“We knew this was coming,” Arboretum spokesperson Jon Hetman told the Gazette today. “We expected that it would show up in the Boston area.”

According to a state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) release, the EAB is a small, metallic green beetle so small that seven of them could fit on the head of a penny. It is native to Asia.

“It’s definitely a concern. But in terms of the amount of damage it can do, it only affects ash trees, which are a relatively small part of our collection,” Hetman said. “But, of course, anything that can affect our trees will be a concern.”

Hetman said he did not yet know what the next steps to protect the Arboretum’s trees are, aside from the state-mandated quarantine that would prevent wood being moved around. A Gazette call to Arboretum Manager of Horticulture Andrew Gapinski was not immediately returned.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the U.S. Forest Service will define a quarantine area and wood-movement ban similar to that used to control the recently-eradicated Asian longhorned beetle (ALB).

Unlike many other invasive beetles, the ash borer kills ash trees quickly, within just three to five years, because it bores directly under the bark and disrupts the tree’s fluid-conducting system. Since its discovery in North America, it has killed millions of ash trees and has caused billions of dollars in treatment, removal and replacement costs to address the infested trees.

In August of 2012, EAB was detected in the Town of Dalton. In November of 2013, EAB was confirmed in the Town of North Andover. DCR instituted county-wide quarantines of Essex and Berkshire counties shortly after the EAB was discovered.

To date, 23 states across the country have confirmed detections of EAB.

Ash is a main component of the northern hardwood forest in Massachusetts and is a common species in western Massachusetts. Ash is also a popular street tree in eastern Massachusetts.

Signs of EAB damage include:

  • Tiny, D-shaped exit holes in the bark of ash trees, dieback in the upper third of the tree canopy, and sprouting of branches just below this dead area.
  • In the winter months, signs of EAB infestation left by woodpecker activity on ash trees. Fresh, light-colored wood pecks stand out against the darker bark of the tree. Severe woodpecker activity at the base of the canopy or on the main stems may indicate possible EAB infestation and should be reported to state forest health personnel immediately.

More information about EAB at emeraldashborer.info.