Emerald ash borer found in Amherst

  • An adult emerald ash borer. FILE PHOTO

  • In this Oct. 26, 2011, photo, an emerald ash borer larvae is removed from an ash tree in Saugerties, New York.   AP PHOTO/MIKE GROL

Staff Writer
Saturday, November 16, 2019

AMHERST — A pest that has devastated ash trees in Connecticut and several other states for the past 17 years has been discovered in Amherst for the first time.

On Friday, town officials announced that an infestation by the emerald ash borer was located by a tree company in a dead tree it was removing from private property in downtown Amherst.

Alan Snow, the town’s tree warden and director of trees and grounds for the Department of Public Works, said the arrival of the emerald ash borer is not surprising. Since September 2018, emerald ash borer outbreaks have occurred in Northampton, Easthampton, Belchertown and South Hadley.

“It starts out in small infestations and the population builds rapidly,” Snow said. 

Based on the extent of the infestation, it appears that the ash borer may have been present for three to four years in the Amherst tree, Snow said.

A nonnative beetle, the emerald ash borer in its larval form proves deadly to ash trees and burns its way through them quickly, according to Snow.

For homeowners, ash trees on their properties that are left untreated will likely succumb to the outbreak, Snow said. He recommends that people consult a certified arborist to discuss management options.

He added that he is monitoring high-profile landscape trees in town that could also be affected, and will make a commitment, as necessary, to begin a treatment regimen in the spring.

“For the foreseeable future, ash trees are not a viable species,” Snow said, adding that in his eight years as a town employee, and before that as a volunteer tree warden, Amherst has not planted any ash trees while improving the tree canopy.

Although Snow said there is no need to quarantine wood from ash trees, people should still be cautious about not moving it too far to limit the emerald ash borer’s spread.

He anticipates holding a public information session in the spring when the ash borer will become active again after dormancy during the winter. 

People can learn more about the pest at mass.gov/guides/emerald-ash-borer-in-massachusetts.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.