Emerald ash borer making its presence known in New York

It's getting so you don’t have to look closely to determine whether the emerald ash borer is impacting any particular woodlot. (Photo by Steve Piatt)

In our neck of the woods here in the Southern Tier, it’s getting so you don’t have to look closely to determine whether the emerald ash borer is impacting any particular woodlot. The woodpeckers are providing solid proof of the presence of the invasive insect that will likely wipe out ash trees in the Northeast and beyond.

Forest landowners who didn’t conduct a pre-emptive logging of ash trees before they were lost to the emerald ash borer – and many did just that to get something out of their ash trees – are now seeing the damage these insects are doing. Any ash tree where the borer is present is being attacked by ravenous woodpeckers more than happy to devour the invasive pests, and in doing so are stripping the bark from the trees and offering up telltale signs of the insects’ presence.

It isn’t pretty, and expect to see more of it. In our region, there’s plenty of ash available for firewood as property owners logged off their parcels before the trees died and rotted. That’s good news for some homeowners; ash burns with minimal or even no seasoning and offers a quick solution to a dwindling wood pile.

But that’s about the only good news. Ironically, ash trees were planted widely to replace native elm trees lost years ago due to the Dutch elm disease. Today, ash trees are a valuable food source for birds and small mammals, and the wood is used widely for things like baseball bats, furniture, lumber and flooring. In New York state, ash wood is an economic engine to the tune of an estimated $9 billion annually.

But that’s about to change. With the invasive insect now found in about 30 counties in the Empire State, there seems to be no slowing down their spread despite the best efforts of the DEC, including a restriction on moving firewood. Also, there’s a danger in the woods now in the form of ash trees ready to topple after decaying. And as a deer hunter, I’d think twice about setting a treestand in an ash tree, at best knowing that location is likely going to be short-lived as the insect makes its seemingly inevitable arrival and impact.

There’s no doubt about it, this little insect is a big problem in New York and many other states.

Categories: New York – Steve Piatt

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