by Mickey Smith
JOHNSON – The Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), an invasive insect that eats and ultimately kills ash trees, is closing in on Vermont and will soon be a problem to a large portion of the state's tree population.
Jay Lackey, of Vermont Forest, Parks and Recreation, was on hand at the Johnson Municipal Offices on Wednesday, October 2, to discuss the most destructive forest pest in America right now. Lackey said unlike other pests like the Gypsy Moth, which defoliated most but not all hardwood trees, and Dutch Elm Disease, which took a huge chunk out of the elm tree population, the EABs will kill all the ash trees in its path. He said by basically girdling the trees, an infestation of EABs will kill a tree in about three to five years, sometimes as quickly as two years.
Lackey showed the group a map of the Eastern side of the country, which places the EAB in 22 states (as far west as Colorado). Vermont is completely ringed by the insect, with sightings already in New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Quebec. He said more than likely the insect has already entered the southern part of the state, but simply has not been found yet.
The metallic green insects are most noticeable by their D-shaped exit holes in trees that are slightly smaller than the eraser on a pencil.
The state is trying to get the word out about the EAB so towns and landowners can take some preventative measures before the trees become worthless from ash damage. Landowners are encouraged to harvest any ash trees that are ready, or near ready to harvest, since once an area is infected the options for the wood is greatly limited. Municipalities are warned to consider cutting down ash trees on public land and in the right-of-ways as towns will have liability issues when the trees die and fall. Lackey said by being proactive, some of the cost of cutting the trees could be recouped by selling the lumber before any quarantines are put in place. He said homeowners don't need to take this to the extreme of cutting down all their ash trees. He said small trees could be left in hopes those might host the one that is immune to the insect.
In the meantime, they are encouraging towns to put together a plan to fight the invasive species. Sue Lovering, of Johnson, is a member of the Regional Invasive Insect Planning Team and a first-detector for the insect. She is available to help people if they feel the insects have shown up locally. For more information, call Sue at 635-8315.