Bug blues

Area property owners may want to keep their eyes peeled for anything wrong with their ash trees now that a new infestation of emerald ash borers has been confirmed in both Fredonia and Angola.

Representatives of the Western New York EAB Taskforce held an information session at SUNY Fredonia’s McEwen Hall Monday to educate the public on what this new infestation means and what people can do to curtail it.

The invasive EAB beetle, indigenous to southeast Asia, feeds off white, green and black ash trees, ultimately killing nearly 100 percent of them about five years after infestation. Confirmed infestations have surfaced since 2002 in at least 22 states, with the first one in Michigan. The first detection in New York was near Randolph in 2009.

Millions of trees have already been killed by EAB, and many more are still at risk.

“I was actually the one who alerted (the taskforce) to the tree in the Fredonia area,” Sharon Bachman of the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Erie County said at the session.

“I was traveling along the Thruway in February, and working with the taskforce, you know what the signs and symptoms are, and I saw a pretty heavily-woodpeckered tree. I saw a few up the road in Erie County and I said, ‘Man, that looks a lot like those trees in Angola,” Bachman said.

The Fredonia discovery is the first reported find of EAB-infested ash trees in Chautauqua County. The trees in Angola were also located near the Thruway.

Patrick Marren, senior forester with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, explained the biggest reason for infestations comes from the transportation of firewood. Marren said some people “just don’t know” about the risks of transporting this wood, which may carry “hitchhikers.”

“(EAB) likely came to America on pallets of wooden packing material as part of the global trade,” he said. “The problem is costing municipalities lots of money to try to manage this because of the liability involved with street trees; you can’t allow dead trees to stand on streets, so they remove them.”

Marren added little information is currently known about the Fredonia infestation, but the initial trees were located due east of the Dunkirk airport.

EAB have a lifespan of two years, but the larvae (which usually measure around 1 inch long) do the actual damage to trees as they hide underneath the bark and feed off the living tissue underneath it, leaving distinct, serpentine-shaped patterns as they eat. After the larvae mature into their adult stage, they chew a tiny, D-shaped hole through the bark to escape the tree.

Marren told audience members the best way they can detect EAB is to observe woodpeckers or woodpecker activity on ash trees, especially during late winter when EAB larvae are larger. Those woodpeckers are quite possibly foraging for the larvae.

“This isn’t a foolproof method, though,” he added. “We tend not to find infested trees until they’ve been infested a couple years, and sometimes the woodpeckers aren’t even in the area of those trees.”

Other methods include observing canopy-level dieback on the tops of trees; vertical cracks or splitting in the bark; or water sprouts on the trunks of trees. Girdling a tree to search for the serpentine path or attract any nearby EAB to that particular tree can also be done to detect the beetle.

If an infestation is suspected, further research can be done by forestry and tree-care professionals to truly see if an infestation actually occurred. Chemical pesticides and/or biological control measures can be used to treat infected trees, but those are not guaranteed to always work.

For more information on EAB, go to the New York State Invasive Species Outreach Program’s website at www.nyis.info. Suspected infestations can be reported to the DEC EAB Hotline at 866-640-0652.

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