July 27, 2014
Only two years after its discovery in a single town in Connecticut, a dreaded invasive insect that attacks ash trees already has spread into five counties, a death sentence for tens of thousands of trees.
The emerald ash borer is expected to infest and kill many thousands of white oaks in Connecticut in coming years. Photo courtesy of the U. S. Forest Service. Click to enlarge.
“It is exploding,” said Kirby C. Stafford III, a scientist with the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station who also is the designated state entomologist. “We our going to lose our ash.”
The insect, the emerald ash borer, native to Asia, was first discovered in Michigan in 2002 and has spread throughout the Midwest, parts of the south and the northeast, already having killed millions of ash trees.
My story on the spread of the insect appears today on the cover of the Connecticut news section of The Hartford Courant. Here is the link to the full story: http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-ash-trees-threatened-20140728,0,5263723.story
Once centered in New Haven County, the beetle has now spread to Fairfield, Hartford, Litchfield and Middlesex counties. With a new discovery in Bridgeport in recent days, the beetle has now been identified in 39 cities and towns in Connecticut, 24 of them this year.
Ash trees – white ash is the most common, but green ash also is found in Connecticut – make up between 4 percent and 15 percent of Connecticut forests. They are found throughout the state, but are especially numerous in a long south-to-north band in western Litchfield County and in northern Middlesex, eastern Hartford and southern Tolland counties.
Stafford said it is likely the beetle already is established in other towns. The state has a monitoring program to help identify newly affected forests. That it will be found in coming years in all 169 cities and towns in Connecticut appears inevitable.
White ash is a handsome tree with ash-colored bark in a distinctive, tight, diamond-like pattern. The wood is strong, light and pliable and has been used for baseball bats, tennis racquets and hockey sticks, among many other uses. In fall, the white ash is one of the distinctive components of the iconic New England fall foliage color, many of the trees displaying leaves of a light purple hue, rare in the foliage palette.