NORWALK, Conn. – Beetles detected in Connecticut recently have the potential to dwindle the state's forests if they aren't trapped and monitored properly, state environmental officials said. Norwalk officials are concerned as well.
The discovery of the emerald ash borer July 16 in Prospect and Naugatuck is the first report of the insect in the state.
The emerald ash borer is responsible for the death and decline of tens of millions of ash trees from the Midwest to New York state and south to Tennessee, said Hal Alvord, director of Norwalk's Department of Public Works and the city's tree warden. Ash trees make up about 4 percent to 15 percent to of Connecticut's forests, which amounts to about 22 million ash trees. That percentage also applies to Norwalk.
The "small and destructive beetle" is also a threat to the state's wood industries, Alvord said.
Don't buy firewood in Prospect or Naugatuck, Alvord said. "Be very careful with what you do with firewood, period," he said.
The bug lays eggs deep within ash trees, and the larvae eat the tree, killing it within a few years, said Chris Donnelly, urban forestry coordinator for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
If ash borers make it to Norwalk, it's likely no one will know until the leaves on a tree turn brown, Alvord said. "You're not going to see these things," he said. "What you're going to see the tree start to die. Then it's too late."
The beetle was discovered in Prospect by monitoring a native wasp that hunts the ash borer, according to the state. The developing wasp larvae feed on beetles provided by the adult wasp.
The beetles fly, and their population can increase rapidly, Donnelly said, adding, "Bio-surveillance is one of our detection efforts. We will monitor what the wasps take back to their nests."
In addition, more than 500 purple "barney traps" containing a chemical lure have been set up across the state by the University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension System.
The ash borer has a green, metallic coat and is about a half-inch long, Donnelly said. They are thought to be Asian in origin, arriving here in shipments of low-grade fire wood and packaging materials. The first U.S. detection of the beetle was in Michigan in 2000.
For more information, visit the DEEP emerald ash borer information page.