CONCORD, N.H. – An invasive beetle that has beleaguered 18 other states including Massachusetts and Connecticut has made its way to New Hampshire.
The emerald ash borer, originally from China, has killed millions of ash trees nationwide since being discovered in Michigan in 2002. It’s often spread by people transporting firewood, and much of the outreach nationally has focused on a “Don’t Move Firewood” campaign.
Officials from the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development and the Department of Agriculture, Markets and Food said Friday that a suspect tree was spotted in Concord on March 28, and federal authorities later confirmed that insect specimens from the tree were the invasive beetle.
Agriculture Commissioner Lorraine Merrill said the discovery wasn’t unexpected, and that the state is beginning its response, which starts with a survey to determine the extent of the beetle’s presence.
“This is something we’ve been prepared for. (The ash borer) is in neighboring states and we knew it was somewhat inevitable that it would make its way up here,” Merrill said.
The next likely step is quarantine to prevent the removal of ash logs and firewood from any affected areas in the hopes of slowing the pest’s spread, Merrill said. If unchecked, the beetle can devastate ash tree populations, damaging forests.
The metallic green insect’s larvae feed just below the bark and adults go after the leaves. Ash trees where the pest is found typically die within two to five years.
Ash is a commonly used landscape tree and makes up about six percent of New Hampshire’s northern hardwood forests. It has a wide variety of uses from flooring and furniture to hockey sticks and baseball bats. It’s also preferred for firewood according to Jason Stock with the New Hampshire Timberland Association.
“This is going to be a big problem,” he said, “A quarantine will add costs and complicate doing business.”
Stock said he recognizes the need to contain the bug, but added that the size of the quarantine could affect timber sales. If it covers just Merrimack County, where Concord is located, then timber owners in the area will have difficulty doing business. If the quarantine covers the entire state, it may hasten the beetle’s spread, but will ease timber sales. Stock said neither of those options is good and the state is faced with a difficult choice.
Communities where the pest is discovered also face significant costs to remove dead or dying ash trees, which can pose a threat to public safety.
Brad Simpkins, state forester with the New Hampshire Division of Forest and Lands, said Concord residents should expect to see workers from his agency surveying ash trees in the area over the next few weeks.
“This work will be critical to developing a management program for this unwelcome pest,” Simpkins said. “Residents’ cooperation would be greatly appreciated.”