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Workshop to focus on ash borer threat

They’re bright, metallic green insects, up to a half-inch long and they’re headed this way.

But you’re more likely to spot the purple, pyramid-shaped detection traps set high near treetops for the emerald ash borer, or the long, S-shaped tunnels they’ve dug on de-barked ash trees.

Already the subject of a firewood quarantine in Berkshire County and found in 18 states, the emerald ash borer will be the subject of a workshop Wednesday evening in Shelburne Falls.

The free, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m, session at the Shelburne-Buckland Community Center is scheduled by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Massachusetts Tree Farm Program and will provide property owners with information about the threat of the insects that have killed more than 50 million ash trees in the Midwest. Homeowners, woodlot owners and others will learn how to recognize the signs that emerald ash borers are present, and even how to recognize the three species of ash that are native to the state, along with steps to take to protect them from infestation.

The state’s roughly 50 million ash trees total about 4 percent of all trees in Massachusetts woodlands, most of them west of the Connecticut River. White ashes, in particular, are common in woodlands and house lots in Franklin County and as roadside trees.

Emerald ash borer spreads most typically with movement of firewood. The imposition of a quarantine, effective March 1, on ash trees, logs, lumber and firewood from Berkshire County, is no guarantee that the problem won’t spread, said Gregory Cox of Hawley, a program director for the Massachusetts Forest Alliance.

“Where I live, Berkshire County is only five miles away.” said Cox. The ash borer can fly about 10 miles a year on its own, and with prevailing eastward winds, “it’s going to come eastward regardless,” he said. “It may already be here. When it arrives the ashes will probably be dead within 10 years. This will probably have the same effect as Dutch elm (disease) and chestnut blight for our trees. We’re going to pretty much lose the species in our woods.”

There are protective measures that homeowners can take to protect ash trees in their yards, but it has to be done repeatedly and would be impractical and expensive in forests, Cox said. Because ash often line roadways around the region, losing them would mean that town and utility crews would be required to remove dead trees.

“Being how destructive it’s been in the Midwest, and given the large amount of ash in western Mass., it’s something that landowners, towns and utilities are all going to have to plan for,” said Cox, adding that the ash borers have already been found in Concord, N.H.

If not controlled, these small green borers could wipe out ash tree species in North America.

White ash is an important and valuable commercial species, used for flooring, cabinets and products where strength, flexibility and light weight are important, such as baseball bats, hockey sticks, canoe paddles and tool handles. Black ash is used for making baskets and other products.

Last summer, an ash borer was found in a trap in Dalton — coincidentally, three days after a similar workshop there about the pest, said Cox.

Representatives from the USDA Forest Service, the federal Animal Plant Health Inspection Service and DCR will provide information about the invasive pest.

Anyone who plans to attend the workshop is asked to register in advance online at

http://goo.gl/KODlb

or by calling Alison Wright-Hunter at 413-545-5751 and leaving a message with your name and telephone number.

On the Web: http://emeraldashborer.info

You can reach Richie Davis at
rdavis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, Ext. 269

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