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Salem ready to do battle with emerald ash borer

SALEM — The emerald ash borer is an Asian beetle that can wreak havoc on ash tree populations.

Although the beetle has yet to infect any trees in Salem, state forestry officials are tracking the potential spread of the invasive species and preparing the local community for potential management of the destructive pest.

Last spring, infected trees were found in Concord, and, more recently, ash trees infected by the beetles were discovered in North Andover, Mass., less than a half-dozen miles from southeastern Salem.

“We are really on the lookout on the southern boundary of New Hampshire,” said Molly Heuss of the state’s Division of Forestry and Lands. “We organized a survey of ash trees in the southeastern portion of Salem closest to the North Andover tree, but we did not find any conclusive evidence of the emerald ash borer.”

The emerald ash borer first made its way to North America from Asia in the 1990s and has now been identified in 22 states and two Canadian provinces, according to Heuss.

“It eats all the ash trees that grow in the United States, but does not attack any other species,” said Heuss. “There is no known way to eradicate the beetle or its population in the United States. Our goal is to slow the spread of ash mortality as it spreads throughout the landscape.”

By slowing the spread of the beetles, Heuss said researchers will hopefully have more time to come up with better control methods.

Presently, there are several methods used to slow the spread of the ash borer once infected trees are found. One method involves attracting the beetles to a small, concentrated stand of ash trees, and then destroying those trees and the beetle larvae that has been laid in the trees.

The second method involves releasing tiny, non-stinging parasitic wasps to attack the ash borers and help control the population.

Although the ash borer can fly, Heuss said it is mainly spread through the delivery of infected trees from nurseries or through ash firewood. She said Merrimack County has already enacted a quarantine on ash firewood and added that the quarantine could include Rockingham County if infected ash trees are found in the county.

Heuss said the state will continue to work with local towns and private landowners to determine whether the beetle has spread to ash trees in Salem and surrounding areas.

“Once they appear, it will be a matter of keeping the population very low,” she said.

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