Bucks officials on lookout for ash borer

Emerald ash borer. (USDA photo)

This spring, Bucks County officials are figuring they'll see more of one of their least favorite pests: the emerald ash borer.

Last year, officials were dismayed to discover that the glitter-green insect, which bores into ash trees and eventually kills them, was in about 20 trees in Warrington Township.

There have been no new detections so far this year, according to a recent blog post by Scott Guiser, an educator at Pennsylvania State University's extension service in Bucks County who has been monitoring the situation. But that could change.

"While no additional detections beyond the original site in Warrington have been noted, the bug has not disappeared. There were many ash trees infested at this site and no doubt the adults that emerged from those trees flew off to mate and infest other trees," Guiser said in his post.

Apparently, one indicator to watch out for is if an ash tree has as lot of woodpeckers in it. They're evidently feasting on the bugs.

They had expected the insect to show up at some point, given its steady progression eastward from Detroit, where it was discovered in 2002. It is native to China, and officials figure it came to this contry on packing materials.

But they hoped not to see it this soon. They figure this particular infestation, which is at a condominium neighborhood in Warrington, was the result of someone transporting firewood into the area.

"This is pretty much going to hammer ash trees in Southeastern Pennsylvania almost into oblivion," Guiser, said at the time.

Ash trees make up about five to ten percent of the region's tree cover. The insect is an expensive pest, given that municipalities and others have to remove dead or dying trees for safety reasons.

"Studies of previously infested sites indicate that the infestation will move about ½ to one mile per year, even when attempts to eradicate the insect are in force. In addition, the infestation in Warrington is estimated to be several years old. So…..I figure EAB is most likely already established a few miles from Warrington, it just hasn’t been detected yet," Guiser wrote in his recent post.

"Still, the good news is that folks who fall outside of a 10-15 mile radius of Warrington can wait and watch. Researchers say that treating trees beyond this is a waste of money. This “lull” period provides time for people and communities to make a plan for the day when EAB arrives. It’s a question of when, not if, and that’s an important fact. There is no doubt that ashes in Bucks County will be killed when this insect reaches them," Guiser said.

On Thursday May 9, the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society will conduct an Emerald Ash Borer workshop at Neshaminy Manor Center for municipal, private and community professionals who are planning for the impacts of EAB. Pre-registration is required.