RAMAPO, N.Y. -- Rockland is bracing for a potential beetle invasion–no, not the four mop tops from England, but a winged, iridescent tree killer known as the emerald ash borer, say environmental experts.
The insect has been found in nearby Orange County, especially around the mountain range known as the Shawangunks, and in Westchester, according to Annie Christian-Reuter, horticulture community educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension Rockland.
Harriman State Park, a 47,527-acre haven for hikers and campers, is partly located in Rockland and partly in Orange County and is loaded with ash trees, an important species in the Northeast, she said.
Christian-Reuter said she had not heard of the bug being in Rockland, but “wouldn’t be surprised if it was.”
“They are very fast moving,” she said, adding: “It’s really not a matter of 'if,' but 'when.'”
However, the state Department of Agriculture said Wednesday that the beetle has been found in "three trap catches" in Rockland last year.
Jola Szubielski, the department's public information officer, said her department and the state Department of Environmental Conservation are continuing to survey for the beetle and update restricted zones when necessary.
The emerald ash borer lays its eggs on the tree’s bark. When the eggs hatch, the baby beetles dig into the bark to nosh on its “transportation tissues.” This effectively girdles the tree and starves it by disrupting the movement of water and nutrients.
White, green and black ashes are native to the region, she said, but these trees are not resistant to the Asian beetle, an invasive species.
Once an area is invaded, she said, the prognosis for ash trees “is not good.”
According to Wickes/arborists, a tree and lawn care service based in Spring Valley, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has put most of the Hudson Valley area under quarantine in order to limit the beetle's spread.
The quarantine prevents movement of wood from all species of ash trees out of the affected area, Wickes/arborists said.
State agriculture and environmental officials are taking a proactive approach by asking folks not only to keep an eye out for the beetle but to collect genetic material from ash trees–just in case.
The Mid-Atlantic Regional Seed Bank, a U.S. Forest Service project, is collecting seeds from many different types of ash trees, so breeding efforts might prevent their total loss in the Northeast, Christian-Reuter said.
One sign of an invasion is if the canopy is dying back and leaves are turning yellow or brown.
If property owners suspect their trees have been affected, they can call in an arborist, but treatment is time-consuming and expensive, Christian-Reuter said.
The state DEC has a reporting form on its website, which can be accessed here.
The beetle can also be reported to local branches of Cornell Cooperative Extension.
Sightings of the borer can also be reported to the DEC by calling (866) 640-0652.
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