By Gwendolyn Craig
State officials confirmed Tuesday night that emerald ash borer has infested some trees in the Town of Chester.
The invasive bug has been documented all around the outskirts of the Adirondack Park, but this is the first time the state Department of Environmental Conservation has confirmed an infestation within the park.
Emerald ash borers are metallic, green-winged beetles whose larvae feed on an inner layer of an ash tree. Once they’re grown, the adults exit the tree, leaving behind a D-shaped hole. Over time, the beetle’s lifecycle ends up killing the tree. They’re not great at flying, either, and typically get spread through people transporting wood shipping pallets or firewood.
State Department of Transportation employees identified the infected trees at the Warren County Canoe Launch on the Schroon River, according to a DEC news release.
Tammara Van Ryn, manager of the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program, said her organization is assisting DEC in surveying the site and determining how widespread the damage is.
At first glance, Van Ryn said the spread appears to be regional and it is unlikely the state will use pesticides or remove the trees at this point. Considering nearly all the counties surrounding the Adirondacks have emerald ash borer, too, the outlook for the rest of the park is looking a little grim.
“I like to always think that there’s hope on the horizon though,” Van Ryn added. “The hope part is, this is often spread by firewood. It’s really, really important not to transport firewood and especially if you are in Warren County, or around the Schroon Lake access site.”
Environmental conservation law allows untreated firewood to be transported a maximum of 50 miles. Van Ryn said people should be extra cautious with the current outbreak, and recommended buying firewood on site or buying treated firewood.
Van Ryn and DEC staff will be surveying the Schroon River site in the coming weeks. A spokesperson for DEC said they will use remote sensors, traps and other survey methods.
Some parts of the state are part of a federal program that releases a wasp to control emerald ash borer. Van Ryn said DEC and the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be in discussion about whether the Adirondack Park site is a candidate for that control.
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos added that “DEC and our partners will continue our significant investments in finding strategies that mitigate and address invasive species in our environment and raise public awareness so that all New Yorkers can take part in helping to protect the Adirondacks our entire state.”
Ash isn’t a very prevalent tree in the Adirondacks. About 7% of New York’s forests are ash, while DEC said less than that is in the Adirondack Park. But Van Ryn said there are beautiful stands of the trees, iconic to certain lowlands in the Adirondacks.
Another tree under threat in the Adirondacks is the hemlock, which accounts for almost one-third of New York’s tree species, according to the New York State Hemlock Initiative.
In 2017, an infestation of hemlock woolly adelgid was found on Prospect Mountain in Lake George. It was the first time officials had documented it in the Adirondack Park. The aphids lay eggs under a hemlock tree’s needles. The insects feed off of the tree’s stored starches, according to DEC, which over time kills the tree.
A spokesperson for DEC said so far the state has not confirmed any additional infestations at the Prospect Mountain site or anywhere else in the Adirondacks.
Van Ryn said the woolly adelgid infestation was different from the emerald ash borer find because only one tree was infected. That made pesticide treatment easy. With emerald ash borer, however, Van Ryn said it’s rare that just one tree is impacted.
Telltale signs of an infestation of either invasive bug include canopy dieback. For emerald ash borer, DEC officials encourage the public to look for the D-shaped exit holes and yellowing or browning of ash leaves. For hemlock trees, look for graying needles and cotton masses underneath the branches.
The public should report any invasive species signs to DEC’s Forest Health Diagnostic Laboratory. Photos and descriptions may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Sightings may also be reported to nyimapinvasives.org. For more information on the emerald ash borer, go to dec.ny.gov/animals/7253.html. For more information on the hemlock woolly adelgid, go to dec.ny.gov/animals/7250.html.