The emerald ash borer may have only just been discovered in Warren County, but it appears the invasive species has been living in the Adirondack Park for longer than previously thought.
Earlier this month, staff from the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program and the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation conducted a visual survey of ash trees near the Warren County Canoe Launch on Schroon River in the town of Chester where the species was first discovered.
“What we found is that there are likely more infested ash trees, particularly on the east side of I-87, that kind of extend up and down from that Warren County boat access point,” said Tammara Van Ryn, director of the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program.
The Adirondack Explorer first reported the news.
In an email, DEC said it has confirmed additional suspect sites within a 5-mile radius of the original infestation site and is working to obtain permission to survey trees located on private property.
“DEC’s survey work has discovered additional suspect sites within a five-mile radius. DEC is working to confirm those on the outer edges, some of which are on private property and require landowner consent for investigation,” the department said in a statement.
The survey work is ongoing, the DEC said.
New York has strict laws in place to prevent the transportation of untreated firewood, a likely cause of the species’ spread. The state recommends firewood not be transported more than 50 miles from its source.
The species has been spotted in parts of the state surrounding the Adirondack Park for years, but has not been confirmed in the park until the Aug. 4 sighting in Warren County.
Van Ryn said the infestation is contained to a small area around the boat launch, but added it’s likely the ash borer has been living in the county for at least two years, based on the condition of the tree it was originally found in.
The exact scope of the infestation remains unclear, but Van Ryn said the focus is now on preventing the species from spreading further.
“It is likely more extensive than simply being able to cut down one infested tree and turning it into chips,” she said.
The ash borer works quickly: An infected tree can be killed within three years.
Larvae feed on the inner cambium layer of the tree, which acts like a circulatory system, allowing nutrients to flow up and down the tree, Van Ryn said.
“Once larvae get into the tree, they’re essentially eating through that layer of circulatory system,” Van Ryn said.
A fully grown ash borer can travel only a half-mile a year, but they can spread when firewood is carried from one part of the state to another, Van Ryn said.
“It really relies on humans more to transport it to places,” she said.
Efforts to eradicate the species have failed in other parts of the country, but Van Ryn said there are ways to slow the species spread in the Adirondacks.
Infected ash trees on private property should be cut down and mulched. Exterminators can also be brought in to kill the emerald ash borer should destroying the tree not be an option, she said.
Biological controls, like the introduction of a wasp that feeds on ash borer, are also being looked at, but there are no plans now to introduce the insects in New York.
“The most important thing is that people should not transport firewood,” she said.