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Spread Of Emerald Ash Borer Has DEC, USDA on Guard

Bethany Clarke, Getty Images
Bethany Clarke, Getty Images

Although it has yet to be found in Central New York, the Department of Environmental Conservation says residents should be on the lookout for the Emerald Ash Borer.

Nearly four years ago, an entomologist at Cornell University discovered the tiny green beetle after spotting damage on several ash trees just off Exit 16 along I-86.

Since then, more than half of the state’s counties have been quarantined to protect the spread of the EAB, but Lands and Forest Research Scientist Jerry Carlson says the entire state is at risk, no matter what kind of quarantines are in place.

“The only time the trees start to show the outward signs of being infested is when there are enough Emerald Ash Borer worms, or larvae, under the bark to girdle it or to cut off the flow of nutrients from the roots to the leaves,” Carlson said.

Infestations have been confirmed both east and west of Oneida County. In the east, the Catskills have fallen prey to the beetles, with heavy infestations in both Greene and Ulster Counties. In the West, Monroe County, near Rochester, along with Erie and Cattaraugus Counties are dealing with smaller infestations.

Carlson says the rapid and wide spread infestation of the beetle has forced cities and towns to begin planning for its eventual visit. Syracuse, in particular, is safeguarding itself from possible damages.

“The City of Rochester has treated several thousands of trees that way [with insecticides], they have some very high value ash trees in their street tree program and they don’t want to get them attacked,” Carlson said. “They’ve gotten that protection by treating those trees. The City of Syracuse has been thinking about employing that strategy and I know they’ve applied for some grants, but they don’t currently have an imminent nearby infestation. I’m hoping that Oneida County and other local initiatives spend more time looking than treating, but treating certainly is a valid option, given the proximity of the nearest infestations to Syracuse.

The gray area signifies where the quarantine has already been issued. The lower half of Oneida County is under watch. Red dots show where infestations are currently found. The two purple triangles signify areas where beetles were trapped, but infestation hasn’t been verified. (Photo: NYSDEC)

Although the closest sighting of an Emerald Ash Borer was in Tioga County along the southern border of New York, Carlson says the beetle could make its way to the Adirondacks soon.

“The beetles were moving 25 to 40 miles a year, so that means it would get to the Adirondacks in three to five years, for sure,” Carlson said. “With our current mitigation of that, we think we’ve reduced it to down below ten [miles per year]. So, it might be seven or eight years now.”

What he didn’t say was that the EAB would not strike in our area. To slow the beetle’s spread even further, cities and towns are applying for grants to work on tree inventories and to pay for preventative measures.

He says the state’s Don’t Move Firewood Campaign has played a major role in slowing the beetle’s spread.

“The first thing it does is it generates awareness,” Carlson said. “People have paid more attention to our firewood regulation because it’s firewood, rather than the information we put out there about the Emerald Ash Borer or invasive species, in general. Number two, it’s given us the opportunity to put our police and enforcing agencies out there to stop and monitor the movement of firewood, and talk to people about whether they know there’s a regulation. The third thing it’s done is it’s really dramatically stopped people from moving firewood around.”

Awareness may be the most important response the DEC can ask for at this moment. Carlson was quick to point out that it only takes one or two people not following the rules to help the beetle spread into previously uninfected areas.

Since being discovered in the United States in 2002, the Emerald Ash Borer has spread to nearly 20 states and into Canada.

Last year, the spread and discovery of new infestations prompted Governor Andrew Cuomo to create Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week.

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