State officials have expanded an emergency order to stop the spread of a destructive and invasive beetle that was found in York County last week.

An emerald ash borer

The emergency order issued by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Bureau of Forestry Director restricts the movement of ash products and any untreated firewood from towns in Maine that have been infested with the emerald ash borer, which has been found in both Aroostook and York counties.

The order was first issued in August after the beetle was found in the Aroostook County towns of Frenchville, Grand Isle and Madawaska. It was extended this week to include the York County towns of Acton, Berwick, Lebanon and Shapleigh.

Officials say the transportation of emerald ash borers – as well as other destructive, invasive pests – in nursery stock or firewood poses an ever-present threat in Maine. A native of Asia, emerald ash borers have killed millions of trees in the U.S. and Canada since being discovered in 2002 and are regarded as one of the most destructive forest pests in North America. As of August, it has been found in 35 states and four Canadian provinces.

The small, metallic-looking beetles lay eggs on ash trees and the hatching larvae then tunnel under the trees’ bark, causing extensive damage that typically results in tree death within three to five years. Although there are methods to control the spread of the emerald ash borer, experts have yet to devise a way to eliminate the pests once they are established.

Ash trees account for just 4 percent of Maine’s hardwood forest resources, yet is an important species in the state. Ash is used to make baseball bats, snowshoes, furniture, canoe paddles and other products in Maine, and the state’s ash forests have an estimated overall commercial value of $320 million. Untold generations of Maine’s Indian tribes have used ash to weave baskets, and in birch-bark canoes and in other tribal crafts.

Earlier this summer, Maine entomologists found the state’s first emerald ash borers in several locations around Madawaska along Maine’s border with Canada. Those insects were believed to have crossed into Maine from infestations that were detected in New Brunswick about 500 miles from the Maine border.

Entomologist confirmed last week that the destructive beetle was found in traps in Acton and Lebanon. Maine forestry and insect experts long had anticipated that the emerald ash borer would eventually be detected in Maine, and many had suspected it would first arrive in southern Maine because the emerald-colored insect is already established in neighboring New Hampshire counties.

State and federal officials will hold a public meeting on Oct. 1 in Lebanon to provide information on the insect, an update on the response to its presence in Maine and to discuss the impacts on the movement of wood products. The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Lebanon Elementary School on Upper Guinea Road.

Earlier this month, state officials asked for the public’s help locating three ash trees sold by a major retailer that received shipments from a New Jersey nursery that is within a quarantine area for the emerald ash borer. A spokesman for the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry would not name the retailer or the locations of its stores, saying the agency wants to use the incident as a way to raise the alarm about the emerald ash borer around the state.

Federal authorities are expected to impose a quarantine in parts of Maine on ash trees or products response to the insect’s recent discovery, similar to quarantines in place in other states, including neighboring New Hampshire. State officials say it is likely the quarantine area would include all of York County even though the beetle has only been detected in four towns.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: grahamgillian

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