Ash borer a no-show here so far

The purple prism-shaped boxes hanging in trees along Route 50 and Route 9 in Saratoga Springs and Ho

The purple prism-shaped boxes hanging in trees along Route 50 and Route 9 in Saratoga Springs and Hop City Road in the town of Ballston are ready to lure would-be attackers: beetles that fit easily onto a penny but wreak destruction in forests and urban streetscapes alike.

Despite all the work hanging the traps and checking them, officials hope the traps come up empty as they have in years past.

The colorful boxes are scented to attract the emerald ash borer, an invasive beetle whose larvae devour ash trees under the bark, starving them of nutrients and eventually killing them. The sticky, coated traps catch the bright green insects and let environmental workers know the bugs are a problem before tree infestations become apparent.

So far, no emerald ash borers have been found in Saratoga County, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The DEC hung 160 traps this spring in the county, some in visible places like the wooded corridor south of downtown Saratoga Springs.

“It’s a continuing effort to monitor for [emerald ash borer], and this effort just helps with early detection,” said Lisa King, a spokeswoman for DEC.

The pest has been spotted as close as Selkirk in southern Albany County in October 2011, and has spread quickly throughout the state since it was first discovered in western New York in 2009.

The state has tried to slow the spread in part through banning people from transporting untreated firewood more than 50 miles. The ban took effect in 2009, and DEC officers also operate checkpoints and question campers about the source of their wood.

In addition to the traps and the firewood restrictions, DEC adopted Slow Ash Mortality strategies to try to protect ash trees, including removing infested trees, monitoring boundaries where the beetle has been found and coming up with insecticides and organisms to kill the pests.

The agency also sets up “detection trees” as bait, girdling ash trees by stripping away some of the bark, which makes the trees smell stressed and therefore attractive to female emerald ash borers looking to lay their eggs.

The girdled trees are then cut down and probed to see if there are larvae under the bark.

The most recent infestation detected in eastern New York, discovered in April in Dutchess County, was found in detection trees set up across the Hudson River from a large infestation. Seven counties in western New York and five in the Hudson Valley have infestations, according to DEC.

The invasive beetle has made a quick march across the country since being discovered in Michigan in 2002.

More than 50 million trees have been killed in the United States so far, and hundreds of millions of New York trees are at risk, including ash trees planted in neighborhoods and urban areas as shade trees.

Authorities believe the emerald ash borer arrived from China in shipping pallets after Sept. 11, 2001, when authorities’ focus was on preventing terrorism rather than enforcing regulations about stowaway invasive species.

The Asian beetle kills all native North American ash tree species, and the threat has been compared to Dutch elm disease, which wiped out elm trees several decades ago.

Emerald ash borer larvae are about 23⁄4 inches long and chew through the layer under the bark of ash trees, disrupting the flow of water and nutrients and ultimately killing the tree from the top down within two to four years.

Visible signs of ash tree infestation include dieback or yellowing of the tree canopy or browning of the leaves. Woodpecker damage may also be visible, since birds find the larvae tasty.

The adults are between 3⁄8 and 5⁄8 of an inch long; they have metallic green wings and a coppery red or purple abdomen.

Adult ash borers leave small D-shaped holes when they exit the trees. The adults are most commonly seen in June and July, but can be out and about from late May through early September.

DEC asks people with information about possible infestations to call a hotline at 1-866-640-0652 or visit the DEC website at

White ash is used to make baseball bats, flooring, furniture, tool handles, oars and other products.

In Schoharie County, the George Landis Arboretum in Esperance has hung emerald ash borer traps on the property, and DEC has installed about 20 more on public roads within a mile radius, said arboretum Ash executive director Fred Breglia. The beetle hasn’t been found at the arboretum yet or in the county.

Also, Breglia plans to install 20 traps to detect Asian longhorned beetles, another invasive pest that so far hasn’t been in the area either. The black-and-white beetles are even more destructive than the emerald ash borers, Breglia said, in part because the hungry larvae are much larger and also because the insects devour any kind of hardwood.

And unlike the emerald ash borer, “It doesn’t have any natural predators,” Breglia said.

Outbreaks of the Asian longhorned beetle have occurred downstate, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture website Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, Staten Island and part of Long Island are under quarantine for the pest.

Breglia expects to see more Asian longhorned beetle traps around the region soon. Those traps are black and have a slippery slide that draws the beetles in.

Categories: Schenectady County

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