Carbon County's forests are being attacked on two fronts - from the West by the Emerald Ash Tree Borer, and from the East by the Asian longhorned beetle. You can help by being aware of their signs, and not transporting firewood.
The Asian longhorned beetle has appeared in pockets of New York City, New Jersey, Illinois and Massachusetts. To prevent the spread of these insects that have destroyed thousands of hardwood trees, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has set up a quarantine around the affected areas.
With the quarantine in effect, foresters are warning people not to collect firewood in these areas and take it to places like Carbon County to go camping.
"We have a firewood advisory on our website," said Dave Horvath, director of Mauch Chunk Lake Park. "We encourage visitors to buy firewood locally."
"The Asian longhorned beetle goes after hardwoods," noted Susan Gallagher, chief naturalist at the Carbon County Environmental Education Center. "That could be ugly because we have a lot of those trees here in Pennsylvania."
The Asian longhorned beetle grows and lays its eggs in many types of hardwood trees. In the United States, these beetles prefer the following species: ash, birch, elm, European mountain ash, hackberry, horsechestnut, London planetree, maple, mimosa, poplar, willow and Katsura. The trees that it selects, it feeds on, and eventually kills.
The Asian longhorned beetle most likely came to the United States inside wood packing material from Asia. It was first discovered in Brooklyn, New York in 1996.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, "If the Asian longhorned beetle were to become established here, it could become one of the most destructive and costly pests ever to enter the United States. If we don't find and stop the Asian longhorned beetle, we'll lose more than trees. We'll lose industries worth billions of dollars-and wildlife habitats too. Our yards and neighborhoods will take decades to recover."
One of the most important ways to help stop the Asian longhorned beetle is to look for it and report it at www.beetlebusters.info.
Adult beetles are most active during the summer and early fall. They can be seen on trees, branches, walls, outdoor furniture, cars, and sidewalks. Here's a description: six legs, 1 to 1 1/2 inches in length, with a long antennae banded in black and white (longer than the insect's body), has a shiny jet black body with distinctive white spots, and may have blue color on its feet. While the Asian longhorned beetle may appear threatening, it is harmless to humans and pets.
The Asian longhorned beetle spends most of its life as a larva inside a hardwood tree. The adult female chews a depression or egg site into the bark and lays a single egg beneath the bark. Egg sites are visible on the bark of the tree. They can be oval, round or small slits depending on the tree species and thickness of the bark. A female can lay 30-60 eggs in her lifetime.
When the larva emerges from the egg, it initially feeds on the tree's living tissue directly beneath the bark. The mature larva then moves deep into the tree and feeds on the woody tissue. This feeding and burrowing causes the tree to weaken and eventually die. The larva becomes a pupa inside the tree.
About one year after the egg was laid, the adult beetle breaks out of its pupal casing and chews its way out of the tree, creating perfectly round exit holes that are about three-eighths-inch long in diameter. Adult beetles emerge in July and August. They feed on leaves and small twigs and then mate, continuing the life cycle with the female beetles laying more eggs in the tree. Female beetles tend to lay eggs on the same tree every year until the tree dies.
The Emerald Ash Borer beetle is an invasive insect that was first detected in North America in 2002. Metallic green in color and about a half-inch long, the average adult beetle can easily fit on a penny. Adult beetles do little harm to ash trees, yet the same cannot be said for its larvae which tunnel under the bark and disrupt the systems that transport food and water to the tree, eventually starving and killing it.
The Emerald Ash Borer probably arrived in the United States inside wood packing material from Asia. Since its discovery in southeastern Michigan, the Emerald Ash Borer has killed tens of millions of ash trees in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
While Emerald Ash Borer adults are strong flyers, most of them fly less than half a mile. The majority of Emerald Ash Borer infestations are a result of human behavior. Many new infestations have been started by people unknowingly moving infested ash materials such as nursery stock, logs or firewood into uninfested areas.
Emerald Ash Borer infestations have already cost municipalities, property owners, and industries millions of dollars.