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Destructive New Pest Growing Threat to Trees in State College Area

by on June 28, 2013 12:25 PM

An infestation of destructive insects that's sweeping across Pennsylvania is suddenly a growing problem in the State College area.

Emerald Ash Borers have already killed a few of the 400 ash trees in State College and many more may be threatened.

The destructive bugs first appeared in the United States near Detroit, Michigan in summer 2002. The beetles infiltrated Pennsylvania in 2007. Once the beetles find a tree, they lay eggs, and the larvae eat away at the lower bark, cutting off moisture and nutrients that tress need to live.

According to State College Borough Arborist Alan Sam, the beetles are now a much bigger problem here compared to just last year. “It would be like someone taking a knife around a tree,” says Sam. “It’s hard for them to survive after that.”

The beetles have also turned up in Harris Township and Ferguson Township.

Harris Township manager Amy Farkas says trees are known to be infected on Academy Street and Main Street in Boalsburg.

“This is all over the state,” said Farkas. “It kind of sent everyone scrambling.”

When Emerald Ash Borers begin to really infect a tree, it will die from the top-down, says Sam. Many of the upper branches begin to die, and the larvae create several visible holes in the bark. An additional sign is a group of woodpeckers congregating to knock the remaining bark off.

Farkas says she is encouraging residents to let the township know if they notice a tree infected.

There are two options. A tree can be treated with chemicals or it can be cut down. Chemicals may prolong the life of a tree, but it won't wipe out the bugs.

Removing trees is not a perfect solution either.

“It’s expensive to cut down trees, and it can be difficult, especially when some hang over roads. It can be a 2-3 day project for some larger trees and we have to be careful while we’re doing that," says Sam.

When a tree is removed it must be handled carefully. Sam explains that one of the main ways the beetles spread happens when a tree is cut down and moved to another location.

“If it’s not burnt or disposed of right away, it can really spread. We have to be careful of this whenever we decide to cut infected trees down."

Trees that are removed will be replanted, but the new ones won’t be ash trees.

Oak, maple, tulip, or honey locust trees are being planted instead.

“In addition to being neighborhood fixtures for some people and a big part of the landscape, ash trees are important across the state from an economic standpoint,” says Sam.

“A lot of furniture is made from ash trees, and some of these other types are not as durable. A good example here is baseball bats. People are learning that bats made from maple wood and cracking a lot more often.”

Drew Balis is a Penn State graduate, freelance reporter and frequent contributor to
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