By Paul Tennant
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — The state this week ordered a ban on the transport of firewood and untreated lumber from Essex County to prevent the spread of the invasive emerald ash borer beetle.
The insect attacks white ash trees and was discovered in a wooded area across Route 125 from the China Blossom restaurant Nov. 15. Peter Church, director of forest stewardship for the Department of Conservation and Recreation, said at a Jan. 28 meeting at the Stevens Memorial Library that the state would most likely prohibit the movement of firewood and other wood products from Essex County.
The Department of Conservation and Recreation announced that the quarantine will take effect Tuesday. The department did an extensive survey of the affected area and held public hearings.
“The emerald ash borer poses a very serious threat to ash trees across the commonwealth,” Conservation and Recreation Commissioner Jack Murray said. “We believe a county-wide quarantine of Essex County provides the best chance for slowing the spread of this invasive species.”
The quarantine order means that certain products will be barred from moving outside the contained area, including all hardwood firewood, any piece of wood smaller than 48 inches, all ash nursery stock and any ash lumber that has not been treated. Proper wood treatments include the removal of bark and half an inch of wood, dry kiln sterilization, fumigation and heat application.
Massachusetts is one of 22 states that have found emerald ash borer within their borders. In August 2012, the beetle was detected in Dalton, in the far western part of the state. This led to a quarantine of Berkshire County firewood.
Immediately after the detection of the invasive species in North Andover, the Department of Conservation and Recreation began working with the state Department of Agricultural Resources, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to make a plan for dealing with the invasive insect.
With money from the U.S. Forest Service, the Department of Conservation and Recreation surveyed the area by girdling — removing the bark from — more than 40 trees.
After the survey was completed, no trees were found to have emerald ash borer larvae except in the initial area of infestation off Route 125.
Plans for future surveys are being discussed and emerald ash borer traps will be used this summer across Massachusetts. Approximately 100 ash trees will be girdled in Essex County and will serve as trap trees to continue to help identify the extent of the infestation.
The warning signs of emerald ash borer include thinning of the upper canopy of the tree, increased woodpecker activity, early summer/fall leaf loss and D-shaped holes in the bark.
Visit www.emeraldashborer.info for additional information. To report possible infestation, call the U.S. Forest Service at 1-866-322-4512.