New weapons used in fight against invasive insect in Berkshires


PITTSFIELD -- State environmental officials are expanding their arsenal to combat the spread of an invasive insect that is threatening the region's population of ash trees.

The Department of Conservation is experimenting with new green, multi-funnel traps as one such weapon against the emerald ash borer. The traps have been hung on trees in Central Berkshire, including along Washington Mountain Road in Washington.

"We've found the insect are more attracted to those types of traps," said Ken Gooch, supervisor of the DCR's Forest Health program.

The metallic green insect, which Gooch said has "continued to spread," has most recently been found in tree traps near the Richmond and Pittsfield line, and the Washington and Dalton line.

Native to Asia, the insect has spread to 22 states since being discovered in Michigan in 2002. Environmental officials suspect the species snuck through customs on an international shipment.

The emerald ash borer was first discovered to have made its way to the Berkshires in 2012, when one was caught in a sticky tree trap in Dalton.

DCR issued a quarantine in February that bans businesses and people from transporting locally harvested hardwood beyond the county's borders. A second quarantine in Essex County, north of Boston on the border with New Hampshire, was enacted in April.

Some of the infamous purple hanging tree traps, which popped up in Central Berkshire after the insect appeared in Kingston, N.Y., in July 2010, have been placed in several Northern Berkshire towns including Williamstown, Hancock and New Ashford, Gooch said.

DCR also creates "trap trees" with bark that has been stripped off as one technique being used for tracking purposes, he explained. The stressed trees give off chemicals that attract the bugs, he said.

Scientists also are experimenting with predatory insects, he said, which would feed on the emerald ash borer and balance the species' population.

Jeffrey Hutchins, executive director for the Massachusetts Forest Alliance, said his organization believes in enacting a statewide quarantine. Members of the forest products industry and woodland owners can't transport outside of their counties, he explained, something that could impact business.

"It's likely that the emerald ash borer is in other areas of the state," Hutchins said. "We also think it's likely the state will go to a statewide quarantine, and on that we think the sooner, the better."

Gooch said the localized quarantines are essential in slowing the spread of the species.

"There's a lot of space between Berkshire and Essex counties," he added. "But if we find them in other counties, that could change how we do the quarantine."

He said saw logs can be transported from Oct. 1 to May 1 as long as businesses work with DCR.

"But firewood should be bought locally, and can never be removed from the quarantine area," he said.

To reach Edward Damon:

or (413) 663-3741, ext 224.

On Twitter: @BE_EDamon


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