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Emerald ash borer beetle finds way to Eastern Shore
By JONATHAN CRIBBS
(June 30, 2015) A new tree pest has arrived on the Eastern Shore, sparking concern among growers of vulnerable ash trees, but Mike Hemming said he’s not concerned about his nursery.
He got out of the ash tree business 25 years ago.
That’s when the last ash tree pest — the bronze birch borer — showed up and caused trouble, killing trees at his nursery or once they were sold to customers.
But nurseries that sell ash trees should be concerned, said Hemming, president of Eastern Shore Nurseries in Easton, Md.
“It’s going to kill any ash trees that are around. Maybe not 100 percent of them,” he said. “A few years ago, I went out to Yellowstone National Park, and there’s places in Ohio where they had ash trees planted along the interstate, and it was just dead, dead, dead, dead for miles, and I know that was the problem.”
The Maryland Department of Agriculture confirmed the presence of the emerald ash borer beetle in four counties last week — Baltimore, Harford, Dorchester and Queen Anne’s — including two on the Shore.
Calling it invasive and highly destructive, the department said it expected the discovery to start a federal quarantine of the beetle across the state.
“We were hoping the [beetle] would bypass the Eastern Shore, though, frankly we are not surprised to detect its arrival,” state agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder said in a statement. “This invasive pest has been aggressive and unrelenting, and we have worked very hard just to slow it down.
“We will continue to look for new ways to attack this pest and protect these ash trees that are so ubiquitous across Maryland.”
The discovery is likely to affect the transportation of hardwood in the region.
The state department temporarily outlawed the transportation of hardwood from all the counties west of the Chesapeake Bay to the Shore in 2011, the department said in a statement.
A 2012 federal policy change expanded quarantined hardwood transportation some by linking regional beetle quarantines.
It allowed hardwood under quarantine to cross state lines if the entire trip stayed within the boundaries of other regional quarantines.
If the wood needed to travel beyond that, a permit was required.
As soon as the federal government includes Maryland in the federal quarantine, the state department said it expects to suspend its own inter-state quarantine.
Ash products in the quarantine include: all ash wood with bark and sapwood remaining, ash nursery stock, all hardwood firewood and hardwood chips larger than 1 inch in two dimensions.
The emerald ash borer beetle is native to China and eastern Asia, according to the state department, and likely arrived in the United States hidden in common wood packing materials.
It was first detected here in 2002 and landed in Maryland the next year.
It has killed, damaged or defoliated thousands of ash trees — one of the most common used in American landscaping — across the state since.
Ash trees are common in western Maryland forests and particularly Baltimore where they account for about 5.9 million of the metro area’s 6.6 million trees, the state department said.
The state department has been releasing bugs that attack and kill the beetles since 2009 and has pledged to release them again this season in Charles, Anne Arundel and Howard counties. More than 210,000 such bugs have been released in eight counties since 2009.
Hemming said he’s not confident those measures will stop the spread.
“In many cases, it’s going to be too late,” he said.