Ash Tree-Killing Pest Found In Howard County

HOWARD COUNTY, Md. (WJZ)—Jumping a quarantine. A destructive insect native to Asia has surfaced in Howard County, and millions of Maryland ash trees could be on the menu.

Alex DeMetrick reports the Emerald Ash Borer beetle is moving with the help of man.

The shade from six million ash trees cool and clean the air in Maryland. In Baltimore alone, there are 300,000, and they are all vulnerable to a foreign invader from Asia: the Emerald Ash Borer beetle.

“This is an insect that is 100 percent fatal to ash trees,” said Carol Holko, Maryland Department of Agriculture.

It kills while in its worm-like larval stage. Channeling under the bark of ash trees, it cuts off the tree’s circulation.

“It’s expanding its range. We had hoped it wouldn’t be this soon,” Holko said.

The Emerald Ash Borer first showed up in Prince George’s County in 2003. By 2008, it was found in Charles County. Now it has turned up in Howard County in three different locations.

“It’s not unexpected to find a new detection somewhere,” said Dick Bean, Maryland Department of Agriculture. “We just want to make sure we know as early as possible, so we can take whatever remedial action we can make.”

In the past, that meant grinding more than 40,000 ash trees into mulch. That’s been stopped, but all three counties are under quarantine.

It was most likely moved to Howard County in a load of firewood. The only way to slow its spread is to stop helping it move.

“We’re trying to keep infested wood from moving out of Howard County, and let people know they shouldn’t move firewood or any type of ash wood out of the county,” Holko said.

The state is expanding the use of special traps, but for monitoring— not elimination of the pest.

“It’s not as efficient as we’d love it to be that it would get every single beetle in the area, but it does alert us to new detections,” Bean said.

The Emerald Ash Borer does have a predator, a tiny wasp from Asia that has been introduced in Charles County. But it will take years before it has a substantial impact.

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