AUGUSTA, Maine — The emerald ash borer, an invasive beetle from Asia that can kill ash trees, has not been found in Maine yet, but the Maine Department of Conservation, U.S. Department of Agriculture and other groups are trying to buy some time so the insect can be dealt with if it does appear.
On Thursday morning, Maine Forest Service entomologist Colleen Teerling demonstrated a sticky purple triangular trap that will be hoisted into the canopy of 955 ash trees across the state. The trap is designed to attract any emerald ash borer beetles that are nearby, she said.
“This is an insect we want to find early if it comes to Maine,” said Teerling. “It’s a threat, not only to our forest trees, but also to the trees in our cities and towns.”
The beetles have destroyed millions of acres of trees in other states, according to the Department of Conservation. They are getting closer to Maine, but haven’t been found in the state yet. Recently, the beetles have been found in eastern New York state and in Quebec.
“It’s not here, but its been moving quite rapidly in the Midwest,” said Ann Gibbs, state horticulturist for the Maine Department of Agriculture. “It’s now on this side of the Hudson River. It was found about a month ago.”
Gibbs said she witnessed the devastation the pests can have on ash trees. Through boring, the beetles stop the movement of food and water for the tree, she said.
“I’ve been to Michigan, where the pest was first found [in 2002],” said Gibbs. “It was amazing. There would be whole communities of dead ash trees in the town. Just big, huge dead trees. It kills trees and kills them pretty quickly.”
State Plant Health Director Terry Bourgoin said Maine Forest Rangers will put up about 750 traps around the state. The Department of Agriculture, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Penobscot Indian Nation will also put up traps.
“No agency could do it by themselves,” Bourgoin said of the collaborative effort.
The traps will be placed as far north as Grand Isle and as far east as Robbinston. Most of the traps will be in western Maine.
Maine Forest Ranger Sgt. Matt Gomes said it’s inevitable the beetle will make its way to Maine.
“Everyone’s being a realist in that these insects, at some point, are probably going to end up in the state of Maine,” said Gomes. “What we’re trying to do is buy time, because the more time we can buy, the closer we get to an answer to combat them, whether it’s a biological answer or another pest that enjoys them for dinner. The more time we have, the more research we can do.”
Gibbs said the public can help in a variety of ways.
“Just be aware of your surroundings. Keep an eye on your trees,” said Gibbs. “If you’re looking for emerald ash borer, it’s a D-shaped [exit] hole [made in the tree]. Notify us. Don’t be afraid to tell someone that you see something that looks unusual.”
Gomes added that one way invasive insects make their way to Maine is by means of firewood being transported into the state.
“That’s why it is illegal now to transport firewood into the state of Maine,” said Gomes.
Bourgoin said each trap costs about $90, which includes placing and maintenance. The total cost of the project is about $90,000, he said.
The traps are not a danger to people, pets or wildlife, said Bourgoin.
“The worst thing is that they’re sticky,” he said. “If a trap is down, it’s really important to notify people.”
If a trap is found on the ground, Gomes said people should call for the Maine Forest Service at 1-800-750-9777.
To view a map of emerald ash borer trap sites in Maine, visit http://bdn.to/ashmap.