Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Kite in a Tree: Looking for a Killer

Trap near our house

When I first saw purple in a tree two years ago, I thought it was a kite that had crash landed. I soon learned the purple wasn’t a kite but a three-sided trap for emerald ash borers (Agrilus planipennis), an insect invader that has killed millions of ash trees in our country.

The State of Maryland has aggressively battled the bug with quarantines of ash wood and nursery stock and removal of ash in affected areas—but the insect continues to spread.

Thursday we received a “Dear Property Owner” letter from the Maryland Department of Agriculture: “On June 8, EAB was confirmed by the USDA from a site in Howard County. This is the first detection in that county and outside the currently quarantined Prince George’s and Charles counties. Our survey crews will be evaluating the situation so that we can determine the course of action in your area.”

The emerald ash borer is not only in our county but also in our area. “The emerald ash borer is a serious, exotic, invasive insect that feeds on and kills ash, an important neighborhood and landscaping tree, in one to three years after infestation,” the notice says. The “pest is responsible for the death or decline of tens of millions of ash trees in fifteen states.”

How many ash trees are at risk here in Maryland? Estimates for Baltimore City, Annapolis, and nearby counties are approximately 600,000 trees.

The borers extend their territories quickly with the assistance of us humans, which is what quarantines attempt to minimize: “Residents and businesses in Howard County must not move any regulated ash wood (e.g., logs, stumps, roots, branches) of any hardwood firewood out of the county. The Maryland and federal quarantines are being revised to include Howard County.”

If you want additional details about the fight against the borer and to see photographs of the insect and the damage it causes, CLICK HERE.

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