There's a new beetle in town, and it's put a large chunk of Colorado under an emergency tree quarantine.
The state's department of agriculture said Tuesday that the discovery of the Asian Emerald Ash Borer in Colorado marks the western-most discovery of the insect in North America, and that the pest poses a serious danger to the state's ash trees.
"This insect ... makes all other insects look beneficial," Longmont City Forester Ken Wicklund told The Denver Post.
The state can impose fines of up to $1,000 for violation of the quarantine, which includes moving firewood out of the line that has been drawn around Boulder County and other areas nearby.
According to the Colorado Department of Agriculture, the Emerald Ash Borer is responsible for the death and decline of at least 50 million ash trees in 21 states since it was first detected in the U.S. in 2002. Various regulatory agencies, including the USDA, have enforced quarantines across 23 states to try and prevent the insects' spread through infested trees. The cost of efforts geared toward stopping the spread of the Emerald Ash Borer are already estimated to be above tens of millions of dollars.
The insect gets its name from its iridescent green coloring and the fact that its larvae "bore" into ash tree bark, disrupting the tree's ability to absorb nutrients and water.
“The public can play a vital role in preventing the spread of this destructive bug by simply not moving firewood,” said CDA’s Plant Inspection Division Director, Mitch Yergert in a statement. “EAB larvae can survive underneath the bark of ash firewood, and when it’s moved from one place to another, the pest can hitchhike to a new location. Furthermore, it’s important to note that trees begin to decline a bit during fall months but there are certain features of a EAB-infested tree that residents can look for.”
The insect can infect a tree for up to 4 years without there being visible signs of the tree's decline. Because adult Emerald Ash Borers munch on the leaves, signs of an infected tree include sparse branches or leaves, D-shaped exit holes about 1/8-inch wide, winding S-shaped tunnels under the bark, new sprouts on the lower trunk or lower branches, vertical splits in the bark, and increased woodpecker activity.
The quarantine prohibits the movement of "all untreated plants and plant parts of the genus Fraxinus out of the quarantined area," including:
- Logs and green lumber
- Nursery stock, scion wood, and bud wood
- Chips and mulch, either composted or un-composted
- Stumps, roots and branches
- Firewood of any non-coniferous (hardwood) species
The following areas fall under the emergency quarantine:
- Boulder County, Colorado (unincorporated county and all cities and towns within the county)
- The entire town of Erie, Colorado
- The area extending East from Boulder County with a Southern boundary of and including Highway 7, a Northern boundary of and including Highway 52 and an Eastern boundary of and including Weld County Road 7
- Highway 93 extending South from the Boulder County line to the entrance of Republic Landfill, including the entire landfill property, and including the entire property at 11218 Highway 93 on which the business of the Singing Saw Woodworks is operated
- The 15 acre, fenced, Community Sort Yard located at 8200 Highway 7 in Allenspark CO on the Boulder/Larimer County line
In Boulder, there are an estimated 98,000 ash trees, while the Denver Metro area has an estimated 1.45 million ash trees.
The Colorado Department of Agriculture is asking residents to call them at 888-248-5535 if you think you have an ash tree infected with the Emerald Ash Borer. Residents can also email CAPS.email@example.com.