Ash trees in front of North Yarmouth Academy on Main Street in Yarmouth will be among the trees in town wrapped to raise awareness about the emerald ash borer. Wrapping the trees does not protect them from the invasive species, but it does grab attention, Yarmouth Tree Committee member Rebecca Rundquist said. Chance Viles / The Forecaster

Volunteers in Yarmouth are working to protect trees in town from the invasive emerald ash borer insect.

The emerald ash borer is an invasive species that kills ash trees. Contributed / Yarmouth Tree Committee

With about 211 ash trees on public property alone, the Tree Committee is launching an awareness campaign about the beetle that bores into ash trees to feed, killing the trees in the process.

The volunteers, in collaboration with the town, will wrap a number of ash trees in high traffic areas, such as those along Main Street, early next month to call attention to their new educational campaign. Wrapping trees doesn’t prevent a tree from becoming infested, but it does raise attention, said Tree Committee member Rebecca Rundquist.

Other activities planned include a tree-banding event from 9-11 a.m. Oct. 2, when volunteers and students from Yarmouth schools and North Yarmouth Academy will band trees on Academy grounds to point out their presence and the impact their loss would have on the landscape. The public is welcome to join.

The borer has not been sighted yet in Yarmouth, and that’s why the early education campaign and proactive insecticide treatment is important, Rundquist said.

If a tree has gotten to that point where you can see effects of the bug from the outside, it’s too late. It sucks the life from the inside out by disrupting the flow of nutrients,” said Rundquist, a graduate of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Over 99% of affected trees die, she said.  

Emerald ash borers are small but deadly. File photo

The borer has been found in other Cumberland County towns including Bridgton, Gorham, Portland, Saco, South Portland and Westbrook, according to State Entomologist Allison Kanoti, and has the potential to spread elsewhere if unchecked.

“Maine has a lot of ash trees, both in our forests and in our developed areas – natural and planted.  At least 90% of the ash in Maine are outside of areas known to have (the borers).  Because of this, we maintain a quarantine on movement of the pest and products that might harbor the pest from regulated areas. The quarantine is in place to delay impacts,” Kanoti said.

“Those who will need to adapt and respond when (the emerald ash borer) arrives to their resource of concern should recognize this is a delay of spread and will not prevent it,” she said.

Diligence and quarantining are key to fighting the borers, Rundquist said, along with immediate reporting of any sightings. Residents are also encouraged to use specific insecticides and other treatments. The Tree Committee will reach out to landowners with known ash trees. Residents should treat their ash trees sooner rather than later, she said.

“Several insecticide options are available to protect landscape ash trees threatened by (borers). It is best to begin using any insecticides while ash trees are still relatively healthy,” said Rundquist, who is also the founder of the Frank Knight Foundation, a nonprofit tree education group named after the town’s late volunteer tree warden.

If private residents treat their trees, the town has a better chance at holding off the arrival of the borers, said Karyn MacNeill, director of Yarmouth Community Services and a member of the Tree Committee. At the same time, she said she is concerned people won’t take the borer as seriously as the destructive brown tail moth, for example, because it does not pose a health hazard.

We battled brown tail moths successfully in many areas, which impacts humans. This bug does not do that, but it does damage to the trees so I hope the community sees the benefit of having the trees in general,” MacNeill said.

To report suspected Emerald Ash Borer damage, go to maine.gov/eab. For more information about the educational campaign in Yarmouth, go to frankknightfoundation.org.

This ash tree was killed by the emerald ash borer, an invasive pest that has swept a destructive path across the United States and is now in Maine. File photo

 

 

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