Contacts: Jeanne Curran, (207) 287-3156
Maine Forest Service: Bark-Peeling Effort Shows No Sign of Invasive Insect
(January 26, 2012)
AUGUSTA, Maine – There were 52 logs; 40 volunteers; eight trees from eight different sites; seven landowners; two workshops; and best of all, no emerald ash borer.
The Maine Forest Service, under the Maine Department of Conservation, this week finished up its bark-peeling project to look for evidence of the highly dangerous invasive insect, emerald ash borer (EAB). The results were just what MFS entomologists were hoping for.
After participating in two workshops on Jan. 17 and Jan. 24 and peeling 52 logs down to the cambium, or living layer, the volunteers found no tell-tale signs of the harmful EAB that is threatening Maine’s forests, MFS officials said.
“Although I am heartened by these results that mirror those of various previous surveys, they are not a basis for complacency,” Dave Struble, Maine state entomologist, said. “EAB is established just outside the borders of New England and is knocking at our door. Now is not the time to drop our guard.”
Seven landowners from central Maine, who earlier this year created tree traps to look for emerald ash borer (EAB), brought wood samples to the two workshops to be peeled by volunteers and examined for signs of the dangerous insect, said Colleen Teerling, Maine Forest Service entomologist.
Earlier this year, the Maine Forest Service had asked land owners to volunteer to make tree traps for EAB by girdling a tree, or stripping bark from around an ash tree. Girdling the tree causes the tree to become stressed and release chemicals attractive to the EAB.
“People were enthusiastic, they were happy to talk to each other and share their knowledge,” Teerling said about the bark-peeling sessions. “That cross pollination was a good thing.”
The MFS entomologist pointed out that the volunteers “started to own the whole process” of looking for EAB evidence. “It renewed the importance of looking for invasive insects,” she said.
The tree-girdling project grew out of the efforts of the Black Ash Task Force, a collaboration of the Maine Forest Service (MFS), University of Maine, Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance and the U.S. Forest Service, Teerling said. The 40 volunteers who took part in the two workshops included the landowners, MFS foresters, members of the Penobscot Nation, and other task force representatives, she said.
EAB, which has not been found in Maine, has killed millions of ash trees across the nation and threatens all of Maine’s ash resource, from individual ash shade trees in yards and lining town streets to stands of white, green and black ash in the forests. The invasive insect has been found in New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Maryland, and the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario.
Some treatment is possible to prolong the life of affected trees, but in general, after a tree is infested by the beetle, it dies. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 25 million trees in the U.S. have been affected by the emerald ash borer.
Tom Fox, a consulting forester from Orland, girdled four trees and brought in the bolts, or logs, for the Jan. 24 workshop held at the MFS headquarters at Bolton Hill. Fox said he had the opportunity to see the devastation caused by EAB during a recent forestry tour at Kingston, New York.
“I saw a lot of residential trees that were dead and where emerald ash borer had taken living ash,” as well as dead trees in woodlands, he said. Noting that Maine residents and foresters can learn from other states, Fox said the tour “raised my concern about in how the state of Maine we have the opportunity to develop our own program.
“It’s important that we work to get together and form a response team when it happens in Maine,” he said.
Jennifer Neptune of the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance, who has been making baskets for about 20 years using brown ash, also attended the Jan. 24 workshop and observed the bark-peeling process.
Neptune, who specializes in miniature baskets, commented on the significance of looking for EAB in Maine ash as a way to preserve a unique American Indian craft.
“It’s really important, because if something happens to the ash,” she said, “it could be the end of our tradition which has been going on for thousands of years. It’s part of our creation story, and part of who we are.”
For the past three years, the Maine Forest Service has been using sophisticated detection methods to survey Maine’s ash resource for the possible presence of EAB. Bio-surveillance – monitoring the nests of predatory wasps that eat EAB – has gone on at 18 sites around the state, and this summer, some 955 distinctive purple traps will be placed at key locales.
Tree girdling is the most sensitive way to monitor for EAB because it draws more beetles, Teerling noted. That method and bio-surveillance, however, also are very labor intensive.
Nonetheless, this year’s bark-peeling efforts “worked really well,” Teerling said. “We certainly will consider doing this again next year.”
For more information about EAB, go to: http://www.maine.gov/doc/mfs/InvasiveThreats.htm
For more information about the Maine Forest Service, go to: http://www.maine.gov/doc/mfs/index.shtml