With the recent detection of emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis, “EAB”) in three new municipalities (Boxford, Newton and Wilbraham), the total number of Massachusetts counties impacted by this pest has now risen to six (see Table 1). Emerald ash borer, an invasive wood-boring pest that threatens our forests and urban landscapes, was first discovered in in Berkshire County in the town of Dalton back in 2012. It has since spread to various other counties throughout the state. While the expansion of the state’s EAB infestation is to be expected, agencies such as the Dept. Of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), the Dept. of Agricultural Resources (MDAR), the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) are working together to do all they can to slow its spread.
Since its initial discovery in Detroit, Michigan back in 2002, EAB has killed tens of millions of ash trees across the country and cost billions of dollars in damages. Confirmed infestations range as far west as Colorado and as far south as Texas; Delaware became the most recent state to confirm its presence, just this past August. It is expected that EAB will eventually overtake every state on the eastern seaboard as it continues to devastate native ash populations.
Unfortunately, officials have determined this pest spreads too far too fast to stop its spread. Instead efforts are currently focusing on mitigating EAB’s impact and monitoring its overall movement. One such strategy involves targeting areas in proximity to a known infestation with a combination of pheromone traps and so-called “sink trees”, trees that have been girdled to make them more attractive to wood boring pests. This allows foresters to track the general direction EAB is moving in and gives us better information to better prepare neighboring communities for the arrival of this pest. There is also a citizen science program, known as Massachusetts Wasp Watchers, that tracks a native non-stinging wasp (known as the Smokey-Winged Beetle Bandit, Cerceris fumipennis) that preys on EAB and other related beetles. The program, known as “biosurveillliance,” is what led to the discovery of EAB in the city of Newton earlier this summer. DCR is also participating in a biocontrol program that attempts to suppress established populations of EAB through the release of tiny parasitoid wasps that target the beetle’s larvae and eggs.
With all of these surveillance and management tools at hand, there is a lot communities themselves can do to prepare for this pest. To learn more about EAB and what steps you and your community can take to manage your ash trees before they are impacted, visit: