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Emerald ash borer threatens ash trees on both sides of the border

Published: Jul. 22, 2020 at 8:47 PM EDT
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PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (WAGM) -

Authorities are warning a pest known to destroy trees native to Maine is making an appearance again this summer. In this week's County Ag Report, Kathy McCarty has more on the emerald ash borer and how its return could affect native basket makers.

The emerald ash borer has appeared on both sides of the border this summer, with reports of it in Edmundston and parts of Maine. Jim Dill, Pest Management Specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, says the adult beetle is known for the extensive damage they cause to ash trees.

“A lot of times with these insects - boring insects - they actually attack weakened trees, but in the case of the emerald ash borer, they’ll attack a nice, healthy tree. And so that’s one of the things you want to look for. You want to look for flagging in the trees, that type of thing. You want to look, as I say, for holes in the bark where they’ve emerged,” says Jim Dill.

Officials at Micmac Farms in Caribou are raising ash seedlings, to replace ash trees infested with the emerald ash borer beetle.
Officials at Micmac Farms in Caribou are raising ash seedlings, to replace ash trees infested with the emerald ash borer beetle.(Jacob Pelkey)

Dill says it may be possible to treat a single tree, using a systemic product, but if you have a lot with many trees, it’s far more difficult to rid them of beetles.

Dill says “Control has been, you know, cut and burn basically. So if you’ve got a tree with it in it, then they cut all the ash trees around it, that saves them, because then you can use the lumber. But that’s how they try to stop the spread of it.”

Ash is an important tree in Maine, used to make baseball bats. It also plays a historic role in native culture, especially with the Micmacs, who for centuries have made baskets from the wood.

“In the mid-80s I seen that it was a dying art, and I said ‘well, I know how to do this, so - so I’ve been making ‘em since about ’85-’86,” says Richard Silliboy.

To ensure future generations can make baskets, Micmac Farms has begun a conservation project to raise ash trees from seed, to create a sustainable harvest of trees.

“We’re facing the emerald ash borer, but we can do some things to suppress that and slow that spread of that insect down. And one of the things is we can - we can capture seeds while they’re still present, and we can plant those trees so there’s more of them in isolated areas.,” says Jacob Pelkey.

KM - Kathy McCarty, NewsSource 8

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