NORTH ANDOVER — When Matthew Mountzuris went to the China Blossom restaurant for dinner last fall and looked across Route 125, he could tell something was wrong.
He saw a bunch of dead trees, and they were all white ash. Other hardwood species, however, were still alive, he said. He also noticed woodpeckers picking at the bark in their hunt for larvae in the dead ash trees.
Mountzuris, 26, has a passion for science and a longtime interest in trees. An aspiring forester, he can identify a tree’s species from a distance.
Rather than just slough the whole thing off, Mountzuris called the state Department of Conservation and Recreation. The agency investigated and found out some of the trees were infested by the emerald ash borer.
This flying insect poses a serious threat to trees, according to Ken Gooch, director of the forest health program for the Department of Conservation and Recreation. Emerald ash borer larvae can kill a tree within three to five years, he told those who attended a meeting at the Stevens Memorial Library on Tuesday night.
The presence of woodpeckers hunting for those larvae is an indication that the beetle has found yet another victim, he said. The ash borer has killed tens of millions of trees in the United States, according to the SavATree website.
The invasive beetle has destroyed millions of ash trees since it appeared in the U.S. a decade ago. It had previously been found in Massachusetts in western Massacvhusetts.
North Andover selectmen voted last week to give the state permission to cut down white ash trees on town property so they can be checked for infestation. If the tests indicate that large numbers of white ash trees have been infested, the state will impose a quarantine, according to Peter Church, director of forest stewardship for the Department of Conservation and Recreation.