Tree warden keeping an eye on tree-killing insect

Says vigilance is necessary
Fri, 08/03/2018 - 9:15am
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An ash tree-killing beetle, once foreign to the United States, was recently discovered for the first time in Rhode Island. The Rhode Department of Environmental Management, in concert with the University of Rhode Island and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, confirmed identification of the insect.

The emerald ash borer originates from northeastern Asia and feeds on ash trees. 

According to the USDA’s website, the emerald ash borer “likely arrived in the United States hidden in wood packing materials. The first U.S. identification of emerald ash borer was in southeastern Michigan in 2002.”

“There are a variety of treatment options that can serve as a control measure for the insect, but they are not a cure.”

Block Island has a small population of ash trees, specifically at Ball O’Brien Park. The Block Island Times reached out to the Town of New Shoreham’s Tree Warden, Ned Phillips, Jr., to get his thoughts on the subject.

“I have heard, read about, attended conferences on the emerald ash borer, as well as an equally destructive foreign invader called Asian long horn beetle,” said Phillips. Like the emerald ash borer, the Asian long horn beetle is a threat to the nation’s hardwood trees.

Phillips noted that, “What an infestation means to Block Island, if detected in any of our trees, would be the cutting down of the tree in question along with a certain perimeter of trees in the vicinity of where an infestation on the island occurred.” Phillips said that could mean, “Any and all of the ash trees in the vicinity would need to be removed.”

“We on Block Island experienced the destruction and virtual elimination of our Japanese black pine forests due to the introduction of the turpentine beetle in the ‘80s,” said Phillips. “For a while arborists on Block Island were injecting the black pine trees with insecticide. It worked but was very expensive. I think it has been tried on the emerald ash borer and Asian long horn beetle, but I’m not sure of the results.”

Phillips said the best way to prevent potential infestation is a prohibition of transported firewood. “This is probably the best and only way to prevent infestation. I see cars all the time coming off the ferry with firewood in their trunks and pickup truck beds. Nursery stock coming to the island from reputable tree nurseries are generally safe, but not one hundred percent secure.”

“Visual monitoring of ash trees by home or property owners, as well as tree workers, is recommended, and any sightings should be reported immediately to the DEM or town officials,” said Phillips.