Maryland Does Battle With Beetle

Emerald ash borer threatens Maryland ash trees

By Aaron Gilchrist
|  Thursday, Apr 8, 2010  |  Updated 11:25 PM EDT
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Emerald Ash Borer Beetles Threaten Maryland Trees

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Emerald Ash Borer Beetles Threaten Maryland Trees

A littlte bug known known as the emerald ash borer beetle is killing ash trees in Prince Georges County.
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Maryland is waging war on a beetle that's attacking ash trees across the state.

The Department of Agriculture has been fighting the emerald ash borer for years. This year though, it has moved away from trying to get rid of the bug. Instead, now the agency is trying to control it. That means if you look up, you're going to start seeing traps all over the state.

There are tens of millions of ash trees all over Maryland.  They protect ecosystems and beautify urban areas. But since 2003, the exotic Asian beetle has been on the attack.

"This beetle has the capability of wiping out an entire genus," said Maryland Department of Agriculture entomologist Dick Bean.

He's the state's expert on combating the emerald ash borer. It's infested Prince George's and Charles counties over seven years and destroyed some 47,000 ash trees.

The beetles lay eggs in the trees. The newborn parasites bore down and create little tunnels, draining nutrients from the trees.

"It's starving to death, and it starts from the canopy, the top of the tree down," said Bean.

This month, Bean's team will hang up to 4,000 purple triangular traps, mostly in Prince George's and Charles. A chemical packet inside each trap will attract the beetles. A sticky film on the outside will trap them.

"If we find a beetle on a trap, we're going to be going out from that trap and looking for the infestation," said Bean.

Maryland has spent more than $8 million on the emerald ash borer problem. This year, the state will try again to contain the bug using Chinese wasps that feed on the beetle and a special insecticide.

But densely distributed traps will be the most obvious weapons along roads, in the woods and on private property.

"They're not gang colors. It's not Big Brother with a camera watching you. It's not Charlie Brown's kite stuck up in a tree," said Bean.

The trapping and monitoring effort will begin in earnest toward the end of April.  Every two weeks through the summer, crews will check the big purple traps to see if they've caught any emerald ash borers.

For more information about the traps or to report signs of dying ash trees, you can contact the Maryland Department of Agriculture at 410-841-5920.

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