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Battles Rage To Save Ash Trees

July 7th, 2015

Battles Rage To Save Ash Trees

A war on the emerald ash-borer that has unfolded in the Midwest is now almost a decade old as the bug moves eastward.  The borer is a small but devastating insect – a type of beetle – that kills ash trees in huge numbers.  Pennsylvania and New Jersey are the new front lines in an ongoing campaign to halt the beetle and save the forests.

The ash borer is a relentless and difficult enemy.  It kills slowly and the damage can be hard to spot until it is too late for the tree – by the time the crown has yellowed and died.  The borer does not do superficial damage by munching on leaves or even bark, but hatches its young inside the tree.  As the hatchlings mature and bore their way through the tree, they create spiral tunnels that disrupt the normal water transport system.  Without water reaching its limbs, the tree cannot survive.

A three-pronged strategy is in place to defeat the metallic green beetle.  First, sickened trees are taken down before they die.  Second, parasitic wasps are released in forests where ash borers have taken hold.  And third, trees are being chemically treated to kill the borer.

Near Philadelphia, the Natural Lands Trust is felling hundreds of trees this week in an effort to save the wood and keep the borer from spreading.

The borer invaded New Jersey last year. Detected in Burlington, Mercer, and Somerset Counties, affected trees were taken out and the wood destroyed, “but we know that by the time you find it, it has spread,” said Joe Zoltowski, director of the state agriculture department’s Division of Plant Industry.

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