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Rye's Ash Trees At Risk For Invasive Beetles

RYE, N.Y. – Ash trees in Rye soon could be under attack from thousands of beetles, changing the local landscape and residents’ properties.

The presence of the beetle, called Emerald Ash Borer, in Westchester County isn't a matter of if it will happen, but when it will happen, experts said.

“We are basically just trying to slow the natural spread,” said Wendy Rosenbach, spokesperson for the state Department of Environmental Conservation. “Any species of ash are at risk and it’s hard for us to see it until it's too late.”

Though the beetles have not officially been sighted, Daniel Greto, owner of Central Tree Service, Co. in Rye and a certified arborist, said he believes hurricane winds that hit the region late last summer already carried the beetles to Westchester.

“It’s actually a very serious threat. I believe it’s currently here, we just haven’t identified it yet,” said Greto, whose company works mainly in lower Westchester and Fairfield counties. 

Emerald Ash Borer beetles first were discovered in Michigan in 2002, where they most likely traveled from China in shipping materials, Rosenbach said. Since then, the beetles have spread to New York and been detected in 11 counties, including Orange County. The species was first found east of the Hudson river in Duchess County in March, according to the state. Rosenbach said, although the species has not been found in Westchester, 36 traps meant to attract and capture the beetles have been placed by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The beetles are less than half an inch long with bright emerald wings and a copper abdomen, said Jeff Wiegert, regional forester for the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The beetle kills the tree in its larval stage by eating the inside of the tree and cutting off its access to water and nutrients.

“It’s pretty serious,” he said. “All ash species in North America are in danger. That’s 13 different species from Canada to Mexico.”

Wiegert said if the species was spread by natural means only, it would take only 10 years to spread across the country, but with human-assisted movement, mostly through firewood, it could be much faster. In order to slow the spread, a regulation was enacted to prohibit the movement of firewood more than 50 miles from its source, he said.

Because the arrival of the invasive species is imminent, Wiegert said local residents and municipalities need to start making plans and determine what steps will be taken once local ash trees become infested.  

For now, Greto says his employees will use binoculars to search tree bark for exit holes of the Emerald Ash Borer.

“Currently we haven’t had any here, but we are on high alert,” he added.

For more information about the Emerald Ash Borer or to report a possible sighting, call 1-866-640-0652.

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