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By John Addyman

LYONS (Sep 9 10) – Hold the beetle in your hand, and you marvel at its beauty – a dark green metallic luster.

But what this insect will do to Ash trees in Wayne County is anything but pretty.

“This pest will eventually get here,” said Laurie Van Nostrand, the Master Gardener Program Coordinator at the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Newark. “It’s going to come and it’s probably already here.”

Emerald Ash Borers are making an unwelcome visit to the northeast and some of the biggest, beautiful trees in our area – those that line streets and were planted to make Arbor Day and grow with a much-loved child – are doomed.

The beetle’s larvae create channels under the bark of a tree, eliminating the phloem pathways that carry nutrients from the soil up into the tree. The tree starves, rots and falls.

Van Nostrand told the county supervisors’ Planning Committee this morning that there are confirmed cases of the beetle’s appearance in Monroe and Livingston counties, and in Bath. She said her group of master gardeners is available to make presentations at town meetings and to answer questions from homeowners.

Amy Cressman, the new Wayne-Monroe 4H Team leader, also said that some members have been trained as “scouts” to help communities assess where trees may already be infected.

“The whole purpose of the scouting is to find out where the beetles are and slow the spread, if possible,” said Van Nostrand. She urged towns to start making plans now, “because tree removal is a considerable cost.” If infected trees aren’t cut down, they will eventually fall on their own, damaging property and potentially injuring people.

Van Nostrand was concerned that some property owners could discover they have trees that need to be removed but can’t afford to do it themselves. “What are you going to do to remove them?” she asked the supervisors on the committee.

Macedon Supervisor Bill Hammond asked if the borer’s appearance was cyclical and would it disappear after a few years?

“After many years,” said Van Nostrand. “You can treat trees for the beetle, but it’s not a one-time treatment and you’re done – you have to keep doing it year after year. And just because a tree has been treated for the beetle doesn’t mean it will make a difference. There are other factors affecting the health of a tree – soil, the amount of stress the tree is under, whether it is already injured. You may not want to treat a particular tree.”

She again offered help through the master gardeners. “We can train your highway workers,” she told the committee.

Van Nostrand said people were very confused about the beetle. She brought in a jar crawling with beetles someone had thought were Ash Borers. They weren’t. In fact, there were two kinds of insects in the jar that weren’t Ash Borers. She is getting posters and identification material out of her office as fast as she can.

But she was also worried that some pesticide sprayers may make promises to homeowners that aren’t helpful or truthful. She said homeowners, especially those with an emotional attachment to a tree – one planted for a child or hosting a certain affectionate carving – could find decisonmaking difficult and fall prey to an unscrupulous service person.

“We have to consider the danger of an Ash tree that’s going to fall on a sidewalk or trail,” Van Nostrand said.

Elizabeth Claypoole, from the Cooperative Extension, likened the current problem to what happened to Elm trees 30 years ago. Now the Elm trees are coming back.

Van Nostrand noted that many of the Elm trees, when they were cut down, were replaced with Ash trees 30 years ago. She hopes that municipalities, in their re-planting efforts, won’t replace Ash trees with one species of tree. And she hopes municipalities plan to re-plant. “Trees offer shade in the summer and increase the value of a home,” she said.

Palmyra Supervisor Ken Miller asked if there would be a ban on moving firewood. “There’s already a quarantine now,” said Van Nostrand, adding that for recent events in Watkins Glen, roadblocks were set up to prevent wood from being moved.

“This is going to be a nightmare before it’s done,” she said. “It’s going to be widespread. There’s a lot of education that should be done…we’ll be glad to help you out.”

(Laurie Van Nostrand can be reached at 315-331-8415 and ljv8@cornell.edu)


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