CONCORD, N.H. -- An invasive beetle that has beleaguered 18 other states including Massachusetts and Connecticut might now be in New Hampshire.
The emerald ash borer, originally from China, has killed millions of ash trees nationwide since being discovered in Michigan in 2002. It’s often spread by people transporting firewood, and much of the outreach nationally has focused on a "Don’t Move Firewood" campaign.
State entomologist Piera Siegert said Friday that a tree in the Concord-area is showing signs of stress indicative of the beetle’s presence. She also discovered what she believes is ash borer larvae, but a federal specialist must confirm her findings. Siegert and others are meeting with Agriculture Commissioner Lorraine Merrill on Friday to discuss the situation.
"This is something we’ve been prepared for. (The ash borer) is in neighboring states and we knew it was somewhat inevitable that it would make its way up here," Merrill said.
Merrill said once the larvae Siegert found are confirmed to be ash borer, the state will conduct a survey to determine the extent of its presence. The next likely step is quarantine to prevent the removal of ash logs and firewood from a designated area in the hopes of slowing the pests spread. If unchecked, the beetle can devastate ash tree populations, damaging forests.
Ash has a wide variety of uses from flooring and furniture to hockey sticks and baseball bats. It’s also preferred firewood according to Jason Stock with the New Hampshire Timberland Association.
"This is going to be a big problem," he said, "A quarantine will add costs and complicate doing business."
Stock said he recognizes the need to contain the bug if it has indeed arrived in New Hampshire, but added that the size of the quarantine could affect timber sales. If it covers just Merrimack County, where Concord is located, then timber owners in the area will have difficulty doing business. If the quarantine covers the entire state, it may hasten the beetle’s spread, but will ease timber sales. Stock said neither of those options is good and the state is faced with a difficult choice.
Communities where the pest is discovered also face significant costs to remove dead or dying ash trees, which can pose a threat to public safety.
The metallic green insect’s larvae feed just below the bark and adults go after the leaves. Ash trees where the pest is found typically die within two to five years.