New beetle infestation will be ‘contained’

Officials aim to contain, rather than eliminate, the tree-killing emerald ash borer beetle (EAB) that appeared in Jamaica Plain this summer.

The tactics will include a ban on moving scrap wood, and the introduction of other insects that prey on the EAB, officials said at a Sept. 23 community meeting at Arnold Arboretum.

“The best we can hope for is to contain it, even though we know it will spread,” said Ken Gooch, director of the Forest Health Program at the state Department of Conservation and Recreation.

A single specimen of the EAB was found in a trap at the Arnold Arboretum on July 16—the beetle’s first known appearance in Suffolk County. Two other Massachusetts counties were already infested.

The discovery came only months after the end of a four-year quarantine that successfully eradicated another tree-killing insect, the Asian long-horned beetle.

The EAB damages only ash trees, so it will not destroy entire forests. A native of Southeast Asia, it has spread rapidly in the U.S.. Kate Aitkenhead of the U.S. Department of Agriculture said it has infested more than 20 states in 12 years.

“This bug spread too far, too fast, for eradication,” she said.

The biggest thing JP residents can do right now is not move firewood from one location to another. In coming weeks, an official quarantine area with a detailed wood-moving prohibition will be in place locally and statewide.

Officials also plan to introduce “biological controls,” including a non-stinging wasp from Southeast Asia that is a natural predator of the EAB.

“We hope to have something in place by November 1,” Gooch said.

The EAB is a small, metallic green beetle so small that seven of them could fit on the head of a penny. Signs of EAB damage include:

  • Tiny, D-shaped exit holes in the bark of ash trees; dead branches in the upper third of the tree canopy; and sprouting of branches just below the dead area.
  • In the winter months, signs woodpecker activity on ash trees may indicate an EAB infestation. Fresh, light-colored wood pecks stand out against the darker bark of the tree.

Any suspected EAB sightings can be reported to the National EAB Hotline at 866-322-4512. More information about EAB is available at

The emerald ash borer. (Photo Courtesy USDA)

The emerald ash borer. (Photo Courtesy USDA)

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