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July 21. 2012 11:26PM

NH protects itself from emerald ash borer


Purple, sticky traps adorn many New Hampshire trees to catch the emerald ash borer. The beetle, originally from Asia, has been found in the United States. It attacks and destroys ash trees. (KATHY REMILLARD/Sunday News Correspondent)

Driving through several New Hampshire towns, including New Boston, Hopkinton, Hillsboro and Weare, motorists may have seen the purple, triangle-shaped tubes hanging on tree limbs.

They’re not windsocks, fancy kites or decorations for trees, but rather one of the latest efforts to keep the emerald ash borer out of the state.

The green, beetle-like insect that feasts on ash trees and can destroy one within two years, has been migrating east since first being identified in Michigan in 2002, according to information on the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) website.

Originating in Asia, it is believed the beetle arrived in the United States through wood packing materials.

“It’s not in New Hampshire yet,” said Kyle Lombard, a forestry entomologist for the State Division of Forest & Land, but noted if the presence of the ash borer is discovered early enough, millions of ash trees can be saved.

Often, it isn’t known that an infestation has occurred until a substantial amount of damage is done, Lombard explained, which makes prevention crucial.

“If you go two years and it gets to be 200 acres, it begins to change people’s lives,” he said.

The purple tubes hanging from trees are sticky traps that attract the ash borer, allowing entomologists to detect the insect’s presence, Lombard said.

According to Lombard, the closest infestation of the ash borer was in Kingston, N.Y., and he received an update on Friday that indicated the beetle had also been discovered in Connecticut.

The gradual increase of infested areas has brought the search for the ash borer to a federal level.

“It’s no longer a local endeavor,” Lombard said.

The state monitored the ash borer issue up until this year, when the number of sticky traps set up increased threefold.

“For the last two years, we’ve been putting out 100, and now they’re at 350,” Lombard said. “They’ve really amped up the amount.”

But Lombard said the purple traps are only part of a three-part effort to stop the ash borer from invading New Hampshire’s ash trees, which account for about 10 percent of all northern hardwood.

State entomologists also study ground-nesting wasps, which feast on buprested beetles, of which the ash borer is a species.

Currently, Lombard said about 30 colonies of wasp nests are under observation and entomologists used what’s known as bio-monitoring to collect the necessary data.

“We’re letting them do all of the collecting for us,” Lombard said. When the wasps return to their nests with a beetle, entomologists are waiting in the wings to take the prey and analyze it to see if there is any evidence of the ash borer.

Lombard said he and his colleagues also set up “trap trees,” where ash trees are purposely stressed to see if they will attract any ash borers.

While Lombard said it seems like a lot of effort, prevention of an infestation will save money in the long run.

“It’ll make millions of dollars of difference,” he said. “Cleaning up infestations is expensive. The cost is immense.”

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Kathy Remillard may be reached at kremillard@newstote.com.


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