Invasive Emerald Ash Borer continues to spread, threatening trees

The destructive forest insect from Asia was first detected in Rhode Island in 2018.

By: Tim Studebaker

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – An invasive insect that infests and kills ash trees continues to spread across Rhode Island after showing up three years ago.

Paul Ricard is the Forest Health Program Coordinator for the Rhode Island DEM.  Ricard says, “Emerald Ash Borer is a non-native, invasive insect introduced into the United States from China, probably in shipping materials.”

According to Ricard, it first appeared in the Midwest and has been killing more than 99% of ash trees it infests as it spreads across the country.  It appeared in Rhode Island in 2018.

Ricard says, “And since then it has spread into many parts of Rhode Island, 15 communities so far.”

The DEM says infested trees in Rhode Island have started to die off.  According to Ricard, adults lay eggs into the bark of the tree.  After they hatch, the larvae burrow inside the tree, cutting off its water and food supply.  Researchers are trying to figure out what they can do to help the trees survive infestation.  But for now, Ricard says there is a way you can help slow the spread.

Ricard says, “Not moving firewood, and buying and burning local firewood, is the most important thing that private citizens can do to slow the spread of Emerald Ash Borer.”

According to Ricard, the Emerald Ash Borer only affects ash trees.  While that’s only 1-2% of Rhode Island’s forests, ash trees are commonly planted in cities.  He says you can protect an individual tree on your property with insecticides, but there is no large scale solution to save ash trees in the forest yet.

For more information, visit the DEM’s website: http://www.dem.ri.gov/programs/forestry/forest-health/emerald-ash-borer/

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Categories: News, Rhode Island