It’s small, green and not particularly attractive — and those are its good qualities.
The emerald ash borer has been receiving a lot of attention lately and all of it’s bad.
The little insect with the beady eyes is worrying New Hampshire and Massachusetts forestry experts and making some in the wood-harvesting industry nervous.
That’s because the emerald ash borer has the potential to devastate ash tree populations, causing millions of dollars in damage to the trees and the two states’ economies. Ash is commonly used for firewood, furniture, wood products, even baseball bats.
“It’s poses a very great problem,” said Fred Borman, a forestry educator with the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension. “It has killed millions of ash trees wherever it’s been found.”
New Hampshire officials are particularly concerned, imposing a quarantine last week in Merrimack County that prevented ash from being transported in or out of the county.
The quarantine was announced after the pest was found on a tree in Concord. Ash trees die only three to five years after infestation.
While ash trees are a valuable source of wood, they are commonly used to beautify communities such as Derry, where they line town streets, Borman said.
Karen Bennett, also a UNH Cooperative Extension forestry specialist, said a U.S. Forest Service survey determined it would cost an estimated $25 million to replace the thousands of ash trees found along New Hampshire streets.
She also said the loss of the ash tree population would mean the loss of an estimated $1 million a year to those New Hampshire industries that rely on wood to produce furniture and lumber. Ash is commonly used in the manufacture of cabinets and flooring.
An additional loss of about $500,000 a year would be felt by those who sell ash as firewood, Bennett said.