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Tree-killing emerald ash borer confirmed in Tompkins County, Ithaca

By Charles McChesney

Date:

ITHACA, N.Y. — For the first time, the emerald ash borer beetle has been confirmed to be in Tompkins County, including in Ithaca.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) said the ash borer, an invasive species that destroys ash trees, was found in several new locations. “All native ash trees are susceptible,” the DEC warned in a release.

"DEC is aggressively working to monitor and limit the spread of new infestations of emerald ash borer in the city of Ithaca and Tompkins County," DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. He asked residents to report any sightings of the pest to the DEC.

“The spread of emerald ash borer to Tompkins County illustrates how rapidly emerald ash borer populations are expanding in and out of New York,” Seggos said.

This is the first new detection of the pest since the state expanded its restricted zone in May 2017, the DEC said. Then, infestations had been discovered in Kings, Queens, Montgomery, Fulton, Franklin, and St. Lawrence counties.

It has also been found in Vermont.

The Asian beetle was first discovered in the United States in Michigan in 2002. It has killed hundreds of millions of ash trees, which have no immunity to its attack.

The beetles’ larvae feed on the layer of the tree just below the bark, preventing water and nutrients from traveling to the rest of the tree.

The adult beetle, with its distinctive metallic-green coloring is around a half inch long.

Ash trees make up about 7 percent of New York’s tree population, the DEC said. They are often planted in urban areas, along streets and in parks.

The state has tried to combat the spread of the emerald ash borer by banning the transport of fire wood beyond 50 miles. The DEC has begun helping communities phase out ash as part of the tree population. “Ithaca has worked closely with DEC to prepare the emerald ash borer by removing and replacing its ash,” the department said.

In a 2017 report, the National Park Service noted that in little more than 10 years, the emerald ash borer had killed one-third of all ash trees in parks around Washington, D.C.

“However, all hope is not lost. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Biocontrol Program is exploring biological control (biocontrol) options as a long-term management strategy for emerald ash borer,” the park service said.

For instance, there are stingless wasps that attack and kill emerald ash borers in their native lands. Some of these have been released in the wild by U.S. researchers and seem to be helping to protect young ash trees from attack, the park service said.

Contact McChesney at cmcchesney@cnybj.com

Photo credit: DEC

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