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Foresters wage battle against insect invader

MIDDLEBURY-Two foresters from the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation recently participated in an interstate effort to survey for the emerald ash borer in eastern New York.

The emerald ash borer is an invasive insect from Asia, which was detected in Ulster and Greene Counties in New York last summer. The State of New York, with assistance from the U.S. Forest Service, is conducting a survey to delineate the extent of this infestation so that management options to slow the spread of the insect can be developed.

Emerald ash borer attacks and kills all species of ash, and threatens over 100 million ash trees growing in Vermont. In 2002, this insect was discovered in the vicinity of Detroit and neighboring Ontario. Since then, it has been found in fifteen states and two Canadian provinces, killing tens of millions of ash trees. Emerald ash borer has never been detected in Vermont, but the eastern New York infestation and an infestation near Montreal are within 50 miles of the state.

Outlier populations like these, which are far removed from the primary infested area in the Great Lakes region and close to urban areas, pose the greatest risk in terms of population expansion and economic impact, according to Nate Siegert, U.S. Forest Service entomologist, and technical advisor to the effort in New York.

The two foresters joined colleagues from New York and other New England states on the survey crew. They assisted local foresters by inspecting ash trees for woodpecker activity and other evidence of beetle infestation, and collecting ash bolts for closer examination. Team members worked together in a nearby warehouse, debarking the bolts, and dissecting them to look for insect galleries and other signs of emerald ash borer.

In addition to providing needed assistance to New York, team participants had the opportunity to learn firsthand how to survey for an insect which may spread to Vermont. "I was glad to help", said Jim Esden, one of the State of Vermont foresters who participated in the week-long assignment. "The staff from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and the US Forest Service are faced with a daunting task to delineate this infestation and slow its spread. They were very helpful and professional. Working with them taught us a lot that may help us in Vermont someday."

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