Ever vigilant, researchers in Northern New England have added more tools to help them track the spread of an invasive beetle that has destroyed millions of ash trees.
Dangling this year from tree branches all over New Hampshire and Vermont are horizontal chains of bright green funnels designed to attract and catch the emerald ash borer. The traps join the now-familiar boxy, purple traps that have been hung for the past few years as the beetle has spread relentlessly eastward.
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Forest stewards throughout Northern New England are taking other steps to track and reduce the spread of the beetle, including a ban on moving firewood from state to state and, in some cases, more than a few miles within the same state. The July Fourth weekend is a busy time for campers so forest rangers and campgrounds will be reminding visitors to buy local firewood.
The emerald ash borer is a native of China that likely hitchhiked to the U.S. hidden in wood packing materials. It has destroyed millions of trees since being discovered in Michigan in 2002 and is now known to be in 25 states, including New Hampshire.
Out-of-state firewood has been banned in New Hampshire since 2011 unless it's been heat-treated or is accompanied by a compliance agreement from counties in Vermont or Maine that are allowed to move firewood into New Hampshire.
Jeremy Sprince, executive director of the New Hampshire Campground Owner's Association, said his 144-member campgrounds group provides informational pamphlets and remind visitors to burn only local wood.
"I think our members are well aware of the issues," he said. "All of them are using local firewood, nothing from the outside."
Maine hasn't seen an emerald ash borer yet, but the state is working to control other potentially devastating invasive insects and keeping a close watch to see if others enter the state. Charlene Donahue, forest entomologist for the state, said Maine is on the lookout for the emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle, a bug of particular concern because its favorite host is the maple, which it can kill.
The Maine Forest Service was sending staff to key visitor centers on Thursday and Friday to check for — and confiscate — illegally imported firewood and educate people about the state's ban.
Vermont has proposed a ban on untreated out-of-state firewood. The state is most concerned about the Asian longhorned beetle, said Barbara Schultz, the state's Forest Health Program manager. She said there's a chance the state will never see that beetle but expects to get the emerald ash borer because it's surrounded by states and provinces that are infested.
Vermont is monitoring a particular wasp that preys on beetles like the emerald ash borer, and more than 140 volunteers have been trained to be forest pest detectors.
Stephen Lavallee, acting state plant health director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in White River Junction, Vermont, said scientists found the emerald ash borers were as attracted to bright green as they were purple so after a pilot program last year, they added the new traps to try to capture more bugs.
When an area shows evidence of the beetles, Lavallee said, the monitoring scales back. Once the bugs are in place, scientists know they can't wipe them out, only work to limit the spread.
Associated Press writers Lisa Rathke in Montpelier, Vermont, and Patrick Whittle in Portland, Maine, contributed to this report.