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The Asian ash beetle continues to decimate trees. How is Hampden County dealing with the pest?

HOLYOKE – A small green beetle burrowing into the town’s ash trees puts it in danger.

Authorities are actively combating the Asian ash borer, an invasive species. Sometimes trees can be treated, but sometimes they have to be felled.

The pests are the reason why some trees were cut down in the city last year. “The trees recently cut down were all in poor health, with more than 50% dead canopy, and would not have been suitable for treatment,” said Yoni Glogower, the city’s director of conservation and sustainability.

According to Glogower, almost every town in the region is struggling with the same challenge. The jewel beetle has been wreaking havoc on ash stands throughout the region for over a decade.

The emerald ash borer is named after its bright metallic green color and is a invasive species and poses a significant threat to ash trees, particularly in Europe and North America.

Hampden County tree experts say pruning and replacing ash trees is a more cost-effective strategy than controlling the invasive beetle.

Last year, the city treated 44 ash trees on Main Street and nearby side streets in south Holyoke.

In some cases in Holyoke, proactive measures have extended the life of dying ash trees and prevented them from becoming dangerous. A group of healthier trees were treated last year and a selection of trees were chosen for pruning.

Holyoke plans to replace as many trees as possible with funding from the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, Glogower said. However, in some cases, underground utility lines will prevent tree replacement, he said.

In Agawam, arborist and tree warden Richard Mastroianni said the Asian ash beetle had attacked all ash species in the city.

“I walk a lot in the forest and there is not a single ash tree that is not attacked by the borer,” Mastroianni said.

Once the beetle bores into the ash tree, it attacks it from the inside out, says Mastroianni.

Visible signs that a tree is affected include discoloration of the bark, dime-sized holes, and general deterioration of the tree.

“(The Asian ash borer) basically suffocates the tree; you can see it at the top when the crown of the tree is completely dead,” Mastroianni said. said.

It makes more financial sense for Agawam to cut down the trees than to treat them and stop planting those species altogether, he said. As an alternative to ash trees, Mastroianni can plant species such as London plane, white oak, dogwood and Judas tree.

This round hole in an ash tree in front of 1000 Suffield Street in Agawam is a typical hole caused by Asian ash borers. The tree is scheduled for removal. (Don Treeger / The Republican) 06/24/2024

Fortunately for Chicopee, ash trees do not make up a significant portion of the city’s street trees, says Christopher Scott, Chicopee’s arborist and tree warden.

There are currently 64 ash trees in Chicopee that are public shade trees or trees along public rights-of-way. Of these, only five are relatively large.

Many city parks and school grounds also contain ash trees that were planted before the Asian ash beetle infestation, Scott said.

“Given the high prevalence of EAB and the post-infection survival rate of less than 1%, as well as the fact that ash trees make up a very small proportion of a city’s tree canopy, we have decided to remove the trees with significant infestation, which is the most prudent course of action,” Scott said.

A diseased ash tree in front of 1000 Suffield Street in Agawam is to be cut down. Authorities blame the Asian ash borer. (Don Treeger / The Republican) 06/24/2024

This is not a new problem. The Asian ash beetle was first discovered in the United States in 2002 in Michigan, according to a spokesperson for the state Department of Conservation and Recreation. In Massachusetts, it was first discovered in Dalton over a decade ago. It has now been confirmed in 12 counties in the state and has infested more than 300 towns.

Female beetles lay their eggs in the crevices of ash bark, and the hatching larvae feed beneath the bark, maturing into adult beetles within one to two years. The damage they cause beneath the bark can sometimes be seen as visible marks on the surface of a tree.

The Department of Conservation and Recreation is actively removing dead and decaying ash trees. Statewide, over 90 percent of the species is expected to become extinct, and further ash die-offs are expected in the coming decade.

The state’s strategy for controlling the Asian ash beetle includes a program to trap and track the beetles. It helps state foresters detect new outbreaks, map the spread and movement of existing colonies, and identify sites for the use of biological control agents – a method of attacking invasive species using an enemy species.

Over the past decade, the state has released biological control species at 25 sites across the state in accordance with federal guidelines.

The biological control release project aims to control population growth of the Asian ash beetle by introducing host-specific parasitic wasps from the pest’s natural range. Three species were released at eleven sites in the counties of Berkshire, Essex and Hampden.

An ash tree in front of 43 Memorial Drive in Agawam. (Don Treeger / The Republican) 06/24/2024

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