Emerald Ash Borer Detected in NH; Quarantine Issued

April 7, 2013

Concord April 8, 2013--The March 28 discovery in Concord, N.H., of the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis), an invasive beetle that has decimated ash trees in the Midwest, prompted the State to issue an emergency quarantine on the movement of ash materials—including firewood, woodchips and nursery stock—originating in Merrimack County. Insect specimens from the tree were collected and sent to scientists at the United States Department of Agriculture, Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, Plant Protection and Quarantine (USDA APHIS PPQ), who have confirmed the insect’s identity.

At a press conference today, Dept. of Agriculture, Markets and Food Commissioner Lorraine Merrill described the arrival of the emerald ash borer as “not unexpected” as it has spread eastward from where it was first discovered near Detroit, Mich., in 2002. The pest harms true ash trees and when left unchecked can cause the death of all trees in an area within five to 10 years.

Ash makes up approximately six percent of the trees in New Hampshire’s northern hardwood forests, or about 25 million trees, said Brad Simpkins, state forester at the Division of Forest and Lands at the Dept. of Resources and Economic Development (DRED). Because ash trees are a common landscape tree and have been used frequently in urban landscapes to replace American elm when that species suffered from Dutch elm disease, the effect of a possible widespread infestation would be seen along city streets. The detection in Concord is the first for New Hampshire and is the easternmost detection in North America.

Simpkins estimated that ash makes up one percent, or 2.6 million board feet, of the 223 million board feet of wood harvested annually in New Hampshire, representing approximately $500,000 in stumpage income to landowners and $1.15 million in lumber at the mill.

“We had anticipated this day would come, but we do have a plan in place,” said Jeffrey Rose, the newly installed Commissioner of DRED.

“We want to commend the Division of Forest and Lands and other officials for their vigilance and quick response to the discovery of the emerald ash borer,” said Jane Difley, president/forester of the Forest Society. “We look forward to working with them and helping as we can in the effort to contain the spread of the pest.”

The State-organized Forest Pest Advisory Group (FPAG), a multi-stakeholder organization that includes a representative of the Forest Society, has worked to create a plan for assessment and control of the insect. Using expert volunteer labor, including employees of the Reservation Stewardship Department of the Forest Society, the State will attempt to locate the extent of the beetle’s occurrence within Merrimack County. A four square mile area around the tree where the borer was found will be surveyed by cutting or delimbing sample trees.

Simpkins said Concord residents should be prepared to see Division of Forests and Lands personnel surveying ash trees in the area in the days and weeks to come. “This work will be critical to developing a management program for this unwelcome pest,” he said. “Residents’ cooperation would be greatly appreciated.”

While there is currently no known way to eradicate the emerald ash borer, officials stressed that we are learning more about it and that slowing its artificial spread through quarantines can buy time until a solution can be found.

“This is a serious threat and over time may change the composition of New Hampshire’s forests, including some of the 50,000 acres of our own Forest Reservations,” Difley said. “But even in the worst case scenario New Hampshire’s forests will adapt as long as we work to keep forests as forests.”

Visit www.nhbugs.org to learn the signs and symptoms associated with ash borer or to report a suspect ash tree. Links to websites containing FAQs and information on emerald ash borer and other insects and diseases affecting New Hampshire’s forest trees can also be found at www.forestsociety.org.