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December 1st , 2015

 

 

KensTreeCarePR

 

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October 14, 2015, 6:11 PM    Last updated: Thursday, October 15, 2015, 11:24 AM

 

Destructive emerald ash borer has landed in North Jersey and may be here for good 

By SCOTT FALLON

 

A beetle responsible for destroying 50 million ash trees in the U.S. has turned up in Bergen County, raising fears that it could decimate a tree popular in back yards and along streets in North Jersey, state officials confirmed Wednesday.

 

Tree experts said they expect the emerald ash borer to spread quickly through the region, flying from tree to tree and laying its ash-eating larvae as it has done in 24 other states whose efforts at containment have failed.

 

AP Photo/The Columbus Dispatch, Doral Chenoweth III

 

Small exit holes found in an ash tree near an automotive repair shop in Columbus, Ohio, Friday, Nov. 28, 2003, are evidence of an emerald ash borer infestation.

 

“In four years’ time, we will be completely infested in New Jersey,” said Wayne Dubin, vice president of the New Jersey Shade Tree Federation. “They will be everywhere.”

 

Although state officials have expected the beetle to migrate to North Jersey for years, the first one wasn’t discovered in the region until this past summer, when a homeowner in Hillsdale found the metallic green insect in her back yard, officials said Wednesday.

 

It is the only confirmed presence in the northern half of the state, but officials believe the region will be hit hard. Some of the largest concentrations of the state’s 25 million ash trees are in northern Bergen County.

 

“You’re not going to contain this insect,” said Joe Zoltowski, director of the state Division of Plant Industry. “This has been a big problem for years in other states and they’ve tried everything. This insect still evades all of it and spreads and spreads and spreads.”

 

A native of eastern Russia, China and other parts of Asia, the beetle came to the U.S. about 15 years ago, likely in infested shipping pallets made of ash. It was first spotted in southeastern Michigan in 2002, where it killed everything from young saplings to healthy mature trees.

 

The beetle, smaller than the size of a penny, usually lays its eggs on ash trees between June and August. The telltale sign of infestation are s-shaped lines weaving back and forth just under the bark and a canopy that gradually goes bare. The larvae dig holes under the bark and begin eating the tree, preventing it from distributing nutrients and water. It takes two to four years for a tree to die.

 

From Michigan, the beetle quickly spread, mostly east and south to 24 other states despite widespread use of insecticides, bans on the movement of firewood and other measures to stem the migration.

 

It caught the attention of New Jersey officials when infestations were reported in neighboring Pennsylvania and New York. Officials began setting hundreds of traps in 2011, but the beetle wasn’t found in New Jersey until last year in Somerset County.

 

Since then they have been found in 14 towns in six counties, mostly in the central part of the state. Since the beetles have been found in towns along Routes 95 and 287, Zoltowski believes they may have been spread inadvertently by vehicles carrying infested wood.

 

The beetle in Hillsdale was discovered when a homeowner noticed the bug on a backyard ash tree. The homeowner, who was not identified, captured the beetle and mailed it to the Department of Agriculture.

 

Zoltowski believes the beetle migrated naturally from Rockland and Orange counties in New York, which have had infestations since 2011.

 

New Jersey is trying to combat the problem this autumn by placing parasites that eat eggs and larvae in thousands of ash trees containing low levels of infestation in Mercer and Somerset counties. If the method is effective, officials will consider doing the same next year in North Jersey.

 

The state has had success in containing some invasive pests such as the Asian longhorned beetle, which has been all but eradicated from New Jersey after infecting 20,000 trees a decade ago. But unlike the lumbering longhorned beetle, the emerald ash borer is capable of flying more than a mile a day.

“This isn’t a lazy insect,” Zoltowski said.

 

Tree experts say homeowners or town officials looking to save their ash trees would need to apply insecticides annually or every other year to help ward off infestation. They say there is little hope for a tree’s survival once the larvae bores into it.

 

Known for their good shade and vibrant fall color, ash trees have often been used by towns to line streets. Dubin said many towns may not be able to afford the insecticides needed to keep the beetle away.

 

“A lot of towns will have to decide whether they want to deal with something that needs constant maintenance or if it’s best to just cut young [ash] trees down and start over,” he said.

 

Those in the tree business will likely be very busy dealing with the problem. Arborists met last month at Rutgers to discuss treatment options.

 

Email: fallon@northjersey.com

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