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Emerald Ash Borers Take Up Residence In Ithaca

Emerald ash borer larvae
Emerald ash borer larvae

ITHACA, NY (WSKG) - The emerald ash borer has infested several trees in the City of Ithaca. Just a week after one tree in Cornell's Arnot forest was found to have ash borers, entomologist Mark Whitmore confirmed them in a tree in downtown Ithaca. Whitmore calls this is big news.

Don't Rush To Cut Down All Ash Trees

The potential for property damage is real because ash trees are closely linked to human infrastructure, says Whitmore.

"What we’re gonna be faced with especially in rural upstate New York," he says, "is that we have a lot of ash trees surrounding our power lines, our roads, around houses, playgrounds, parks. And we’re going to be responsible for mitigating the potential hazards by dead trees in these areas."

He and other scientists say the most important reaction right now is for property owners, whether municipal, commercial, or individual, to identify the ash trees for which they are responsible. Once located, he says there are options on how to handle them.

If the trees don't threaten homes, power lines, or other property, it's recommended that they be left untouched. Whitmore says some ash trees will survive. Those trees will provide the seed to enable new ash forests to grow.

If trees are aesthetically valuable or otherwise desirable, he says, there are treatments that can protect them from emerald ash borers. Those treatments must be applied by someone licensed to apply pesticides.

For Whitmore, trees that naturally survive the infestation are also valuable. "It’s a cherished tree." He isn't being sentimental, "It’s a really important tree in our forests. Ten percent of hardwood forests in New York are ash and I don’t think just giving up is the right response."

How To Spot Infested Trees

Mike Griggs, a USDA entomologist, says the easiest way to spot an infested tree is to look for woodpeckers. Woodpeckers frequent infested trees and hunt for the worm-like larvae. So, any ash tree with woodpeckers, probably suffers from an ash borer infestation.

Another way to spot a damaged trees, Griggs says, is to look for bark with an orange tint. This happens as the woodpeckers "scale" off the outer bark searching for larvae to eat.

Don't Move Firewood

Most importantly, Griggs and Whitmore say never move firewood far from where it's cut. This slows the progress the infestation and that will give homeowners and municipalities more time to respond to the insects threat. It will also help slow the spread of other pests that are dangerous to our forests.

In New York state, the recommendation is to move it no further than 50 miles. Whitmore thinks that's too far and strongly recommends keeping the firewood as close as possible to where it's cut.

More information on the emerald ash borer is available at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation website.