Niagara Gazette

Columns

March 31, 2013

GLYNN: Bad beetle invades Niagara County

Niagara Gazette — Niagara County is under attack but it has nothing to do with terrorism.

Instead it’s a little flying beetle that has already wreaked havoc in many other states and in Canada. It’s the emerald ash borer and unless the assault is halted, it could wipe out much of the hardwood that is vital to the manufacture of kitchen cabinets, flooring, tool handles, and even baseball bats. That impact on business and consumers is mind bogging.

According to the Cornell Cooperative Extension, Niagara is one of 13 counties across the Empire State affected by the emerald ash borer infestation. A spokesman said there are now 40 counties in New York included in the expanded quarantine that takes effect May 1.

If this half-inch metallic green beetle succeeds in its mission it could easily kill sturdy, decades-old trees in three to five years.

John Farfaglia, horticulturist with the extension service, said the insect often shows up in firewood, perhaps transported from a wooded area in the Southern Tier. Unless heat treated, it is unlawful to transport it beyond 50 miles where it’s found. (In fact, some campgrounds insist their own firewood is used.) Farfaglia noted that New York is one of the most densely populated of ash trees.

Scientists and tree care specialists have learned much about the insect and methods to protect ash trees since 2002, when it was discovered near Detroit. Some research indicates the beetle might have arrived on a cargo ship from Asia which means it was transported along the St. Lawrence Seaway and through the Welland Canal to Michigan.

Several universities are conducting research on the beetle’s life cycle and to find ways to contain the infestation. It is estimated that the EAB, as it is known, has killed tens of millions of ash trees in New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan as well as in Ontario and Quebec.

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