Forest officials warn of impending disaster after the discovery of the destructive emerald ash borer in Maine — for the second time.
“Well, unfortunately, this is pretty much a death knell for ash trees in the future in Maine. It hasn’t been able to be stopped all the way from Michigan to Maine so I doubt we’ll be able to stop it as well,” says state horticulturalist Gary Fish.
Fish says now that the invasive insect has been discovered in the York County towns of Acton and Lebanon, it’s just a matter of time before the beetle spreads to other parts of the state — and probably not under its own steam. By itself, the beetle travels perhaps 2-10 miles in a year, he says. But when hitching a ride on a load of illegal firewood, its range is endless — and he says people don’t seem to be getting the message.
“It only takes one person to bring the wood at the wrong time of year and not burn it up and leave it there and you end up with emerald ash borer being released,” he says.
Allison Kanoti, acting state entomologist with the Maine Forest Service, calls the discovery discouraging, but not unexpected.
“A lot of times people do know that firewood should not be moved, but they don’t think their firewood is going to be the problem, because the trees around their house don’t look like they’re infested,” she says.
But Kanoti says it can be years before an infested tree starts to show noticeable damage, and by then the insect has already spread.
Fish says the state can battle the emerald ash borer with various species of parasitic wasp that prey on the beetles — but he warns that such efforts have met with limited success.
The discovery in southern Maine is the state’s 2nd, on the opposite side of the state from Madawaska, where the beetle was first found in May.
Ash trees make up four percent of Maine’s hardwood forest. Valued as important cultural species for the Wabanaki, ash are attractive shade trees and an important timber species.
The department is planning an informational meeting for residents York County.