Wednesday September 12, 2012

DALTON -- Beetles that destroy ash trees have been found in Dalton, marking the Emerald ash borer’s first confirmed foray into Massachusetts, state environmental officials announced on Wednesday.

Officials on Sept. 6 confirmed that a beetle found in Dalton on Aug. 31 was the invasive species. Massachusetts is now the 18th state to have the beetle, a small, flying beetle, native to Asia.

"The Emerald ash borer brings a very serious threat to our ash trees, and we are not taking its presence lightly," said Ed Lambert, the commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Recreation, in a statement. "We are taking swift action to address the infestation, and are working to mitigate any impact an infestation could bring."

The ash borer was first discovered in North America in 2002, in the Detroit area. Unlike other invasive beetles, the ash borers can kill a tree fast, within just a few years, because it bores directly under the bark, where the tree’s conductive system is. Since its discovery in North America, it has killed millions of ash trees and has caused billions of dollars in economic loss across the nation, according to state officials.

Officials from the DCR and Department of Agricultural Resources are working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the U.S. Forest Service to prevent the spread of the beetle. Those steps include quarantining wood in the area the beetle was located and determining the extent of infestation. The state already has measures in place that ban bringing outside firewood into state parks and forests.

Ash is a main component of the northern hardwood forest in Massachusetts and is a common species in the Berkshires.

The Emerald ash borer is a tiny, emerald-green metallic beetle, so small that seven of them could fit on the head of a penny. They make tiny, D-shaped holes in the bark of ash trees.

A website and hotline has been set up to to report suspicious tree damage or insect sightings: www.massnrc.org/pests and 1-866-322-4512.