The emerald ash borer poses a threat to the state’s ash trees, an important economic species in Maine. Photo courtesy Dr. James E. Zablotny, USDA

The city of Bath says it is developing a plan to deal with the arrival of another invasive pest, the emerald ash borer. The insect was recently discovered in Portland, and city officials expect it’s only a matter of time before the destructive bug arrives in Bath.

“The discovery of this pest in Maine’s largest city raises the question of ‘when’ will this destructive pest arrive in other parts of the state,” the city stated in a news release issued Tuesday.
“Fortunately, the City of Bath has been planning for its arrival since it was first detected along the Maine/New Hampshire border.”

The city arborist and the Bath Community Forestry Committee has drafted a management plan to deal with the eventual arrival of the ash borer, according to the city. The plan includes updating the city’s tree inventory and developing the BathTreeMap, an online tool that allows users to see the locations of various tree species within the city and highlights to locations of city-owned ash trees. Because the invasive insect is attracted to stressed ash trees in particular, several trees been girdled and peeled and will be monitored for signs of the beetle. Bath will soon begin to assess ash trees growing on city property and remove weak or undesirable ones while treating those with historic value and other desirable traits.

The insect tunnels through a tree’s inner bark, cutting off the flow of water and nutrients, killing the tree in five years or less.

Ash trees make up 6% of the inventoried urban forest within Bath, and the city estimates the trees provide tangible, fiscal benefits to Bath to the tune of $480,000 a year.

“Like many cities and towns in Maine, Bath has large numbers of planted and naturally occurring ash trees in the forests located in and around its developed areas,” the release states. “Because the trees are tough and acclimate well to various growing conditions, they have been incorporated into street design for decades. They are often called upon to provide shade, filter air, and provide a glimpse of nature in the least-favorable planting sites within our built landscape, like congested sidewalk pits, and areas where the extremes of summer’s heat, winter’s cold, and snowbanks filled with road salt make life nearly impossible for most tree species.

A single ash with a 10-inch diameter trunk can provide up to $99 per year in benefit through its ability to improve air quality, absorb stormwater, save electricity and increase property values, according to the National Tree Benefits Calculator

Local property owners are encouraged to visit the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s website for information on identifying and preparing for the pest. Additional questions or ash borer sightings may be sent to the city arborist at [email protected].

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