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Ash Borer Could Pose Threat To Wilton Trees

WILTON, Conn. – Emerald ash borers detected recently in parts of Connecticut have the potential to dwindle the state's forests, including wooded areas of Fairfield County and Wilton, if they aren't trapped and monitored properly, state environmental officials said.

The discovery of the borer July 16 in Prospect and Naugatuck is the first report of the insect in the state, and state environmental officials have set up traps throughout Connecticut to rein in the creatures for monitoring. 

"It's a potentially fatal thing," said Wilton Tree Warden Paul Young. "All ash trees are vulnerable, so there are millions of trees throughout the region that could be affected." 

Emerald ash borers are bugs that lay eggs deep within ash trees and the larvae eat the tree, killing it within a few years, said Chris Donnelly, urban forestry coordinator for the state's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). Ash trees make up 3 percent to 5 percent of Connecticut's forests, but Donnelly said the ash borer is still a concern. 

"It's a very serious problem," he said. "The beetle increases rapidly and flies very far." 

The ash borer has a green, metallic coat and is about a half-inch long, Donnelly said. They are thought to be Asian in origin, arriving here in shipments of low-grade firewood and packaging materials. The beetle was first found in the United States in 2000 in Michigan.

In addition to being able to fly great distances, the bugs also nest in firewood, which can be transported throughout the Tri-State region and around the country. "White ash is very sought-after firewood," Young said.

State officials have set up more than 500 purple "barney traps" that contain a chemical lure to attract the bugs. DEEP and representatives of the University of Connecticut plan to study the creatures to learn their habits. Young said that while he is concerned about the bugs, the state is coordinating the monitoring and response.

The beetle was discovered in Prospect by monitoring a native wasp that hunts the ash borer, according to DEEP. The developing wasp larvae feed on beetles provided by the adult wasp.

"Biosurveillance is one of our detection efforts. We will monitor what the wasps take back to their nests," said Donnelly.

For more information, visit the DEEP emerald ash borer information website.

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