ORONO – An invasive Asian beetle that kills ash trees has made its way to Maine.
“We just found out this week that an invasive insect, the Emerald Ash Borer, has been confirmed in an ash tree in the state of Maine,” said William Livingston, an associate professor of Forest Resources at the University of Maine in Orono. “It’s a devastating insect to the tree. Once it gets in the stand it kills just about every ash tree that is growing on the site.”
The highly destructive invasive insect was found in a tree in Madawaska. The bug larvae feeds on the inner bark of ash trees slowing killing them.
The Emerald Ash Borer was first detected in the United States In Michigan during 2002.
Unbeknownst to residents in Michigan at the time, the dead trees were cut into firewood and sold all over the state, spreading the problem.
“The insect will not spread very fast on its own,” Livingston said. “But if it gets into firewood and people transport the firewood then the trees, like the ones here at the University of Maine are really threatened of being killed by the insect.
If we can prevent the spread of firewood, like what happened in Michigan, then we can minimize the loss.”
The reason it’s illegal to bring firewood to Maine is to prevent invasive insects from getting a free ride over the border.
Drenching the soil at the base of the ash trees with diluted insecticide, and spraying or injecting the bark with insecticide can kill the beetles.
Students and staff at the University of Maine often can be seen eating lunch or enjoying the outside in the shade provided by the ash trees that grow along the mall in front of Fogler Library.
“It would be devastating” if the trees died, said Christel Peters, a UMaine employee. “This campus in known for its beauty.”
The ash trees that currently line the UMaine mall were planted in the mid-80s after another beetle helped to spread a fungal disease that killed the prior trees.
“Ironically, they were replacing elm trees which had been killed off by Dutch Elm Disease,” Livingston said. “So now, 33 years later we’re now confronting another introduced pest that is now threatening the trees growing along the mall on campus.”