The Emerald Ash Borer. | DEEP

Destructive beetle spotted in central Connecticut

The Emerald Ash Borer has made its way into Middlesex County, with sightings in Durham and Cromwell, according to Dr. Kirby Stafford, the Connecticut State Entomologist.

It’s too late to exterminate the Asian-originated beetle from America, Stafford said. “That battle was given up a long time ago.”

In Connecticut, the Department of Environment and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is doing all it can to slow the onslaught of the insect, nicknamed “EAB,” which has a devastating effect on ash trees without its natural predators to control the population. The Journal of Forestry estimates that the beetle has already killed more than 150 million ash trees in North America.

A quarantine on ash logs, firewood, and yard waste is the control measure the average person is most likely to encounter.

EAB first came to America in Detroit, Michigan in 2002. Since then, it has spread to 12 states. In Connecticut, DEEP says it is feared that EAB could annihilate ash trees entirely, as the population is already struggling due to a disease called ash yellows that is afflicting the trees.

“The idea is to slow the spread for a number of years,” Stafford said, to give entomologists more time to come up with a long-term control strategy, as the insect is now considered established in America.

“In contrast to the Asian Longhorn, which we are still trying to eradicate,” Stafford said. The Asian Longhorn is another tree-boring beetle that has been spotted in New York and Massachussets and may be on its way to Connecticut.

According to Stafford, this year’s polar vortex that brought colder temperatures to the United States in the winter has had little effect on the EAB. The insect fares quite well in the North American climate, able to survive anything warmer than temperatures below 30 degrees.

The first symptom that a tree has been infested with the EAB is a thinning of bark. The telltale sign is a D-shaped hole, which is unique to the insect. Trees infested with EAB also often see activity from woodpeckers, which feed on EAB larva, though not effectively enough to control the population.

Entomologists are continuing to work on forestry techniques and biological and chemical agents that can control the beetle’s population and stop the spread.

DEEP has requested that individuals report any sightings of the beetle, and use firewood that is obtained locally to prevent accidental spread of insects.

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