Maine residents urged to stay vigilant for insect threats

Posted June 30, 2009, at 8:27 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A Wilton woman had a nasty experience in her yard earlier this month when she opened a bag of manure compost just purchased from a big-box store.

An ugly, black longhorned beetle flew out of the bag and she promptly killed the insect.

Later hearing the warning from the Maine Forest Service about the dangers of the Asian longhorned beetle in firewood, the woman called the agency and reported the unusual incident, according to a press release from the Maine Department of Conservation. The compost, which contained wood product, had an Alabama address on the bag, she reported.

“It was too late to properly identify the insect, but fortunately, it was dead,” MFS state entomologist Dave Struble said.

“It probably was a native longhorned beetle – at least we hope so. And she certainly had the good sense to call us right away,” he said.

The incident highlights two important aspects of the Maine Forest Service’s recent push to inform Mainers about the danger of invasive insect species:

— Maine residents must be aware of the possibility of bug infestation through other out-of-state wood products besides firewood.

— Maine residents need to be on the front line of reporting potentially dangerous insects.

The state’s forests are currently under threat from two exotic, invasive insects: the Asian longhorned beetle and the emerald ash borer, the press release said. The Asian longhorned beetle — which kills maples, birches, poplars, willows and other tree species — has been found in Worcester, Mass., as well as parts of New York, New Jersey and Toronto, Canada.

Infested areas are federally quarantined and transportation of firewood out of quarantined areas is prohibited.

The emerald ash borer — which can kill a tree in three to five years and has the potential to kill all ash trees in North America — has already destroyed millions of trees in the Midwest and has been found in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Wisconsin, Missouri, Maryland and Ontario, Canada. In May, state officials in Minnesota reported local presence of the borer.

With more than 17 million acres of forestland, Maine is the most heavily forested state in the nation. Both of these insects have the potential of destroying Maine’s woodlands and affecting its wood products, tourism and maple sugar industries.

Last month, the Maine Forest Service issued a warning not to move firewood, asking especially that people not bring firewood into the state. State park staffers are asking campers to immediately burn any firewood brought into the Maine campgrounds from other states.

Struble said that Maine residents should be aware of the possibility of insect infestation from other forest products as well. Those products could include bagged bark mulch products such as mulch, soil amendments and composted wood products and raw hardwood products such as wood furniture, decking and fencing.

Struble urged homeowners “to buy local and buy Maine, particularly regarding firewood. The big concern is firewood.” Maine companies that produce wood and processed wood products have been working and cooperating with the Maine Forest Service, he said.

Campers, fishermen, out-of-state camp owners and their neighbors, campground owners and staff particularly need to be aware of the firewood issue, Struble said. All Maine residents should become aware of the wood product items they purchase, he said.

Anyone who finds an insect that seems to fit the description of either the ALB or the EAB should kill the insect, save it and call 287-2431 or 800-367-0223 or e-mail forestinfo@maine.gov.

For information, go to maine.gov/firewood or http://www.maineforestservice.gov/InvasiveThreats.htm.

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