Plant pests found close to CT

Federal agricultural officials have confirmed the presence of the emerald ash borer in Saugerties, N.Y., about 25 miles from the Connecticut border.

The state Department of Environmental Protection and the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station on Thursday alerted the public to the finding and asked people to report sitings.

The emerald ash borer is an extremely destructive plant pest, and it is responsible for the death and decline of more than 25 million ash trees in the United States in urban and forested settings since June 2002, the DEP said in a news release. Its discovery comes after another invasive pest, the Asian longhorned beetle, was recently discovered in Massachusetts in the Boston and Worcester areas.

"This discovery is certainly a concern," Christopher Martin, DEP Director of Forestry, said. "The close proximity to Connecticut definitely places our ash trees at risk."

Visual signs of infestation include D-shaped holes, bark splits and die-off of the tree's crown. White ash trees are most prominent in the northwest corner, the very southwest corner and east central sections of Connecticut, Martin said.

The agricultural experiment station is surveying for the emerald ash borer, the Asian longhorned beetle and other forest pests and will intensify these efforts in northwestern Connecticut, Kirby Stafford, vice director of the experiment station and state entomologist, said Thursday.

Connecticut "has quarantine regulations in place" for the two pests, he added.

About 3 percent of all trees in Connecticut are white ash, the DEP said. Emerald ash borers disperse readily on their own, but like other exotic pests can be spread when infested firewood is transported to new areas. The pests were found in a campground in Saugerties, suggesting firewood was the most likely source. The next nearest infestation is more than 200 miles west of Saugerties in Mifflin County, Pa.

The DEP and experiment station urged citizens not to transport firewood. The pests spread quickly and can be easily inadvertently transported in untreated firewood and other forest products. They said people should buy firewood locally at or near the campground where they will be staying, burn all firewood at the campsite before leaving and never bring firewood home. For those who use firewood to heat their homes, the wood, ideally, should be from only a few miles away, or at least from within the same county, the DEP said.

DEP is asking Connecticut residents to report possible infestations to the experiment station or the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Plant Protection and Quarantine. Residents who suspect they have seen an emerald ash borer should report their findings to the experiment station at (203) 974-8474, (203) 974-8485, or at CAES.StateEntomologist@ct.gov. Digital photos of suspect insects are very helpful. Residents can also report sightings to the Department of Agriculture via their website, www.aphis.usda.gov.

Trees affected by the ash borer include white ash, black ash and green ash. Previous infestations have occurred in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Canada.

More information and a photo of the emerald ash borer can be found at www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/animals/eab.shtml.

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