CONCORD — The emerald ash borer has made bigger inroads in the state than originally believed when it was first detected in Concord late last month.
The discovery of a tree infested with the invasive insect prompted state officials to enact an emergency quarantine for all of Merrimack County April 8.
That means no ash or other hardwood firewood — or wood chips — can be taken out of the county.
Since then, more trees around the first infested one have been discovered, all within a 3-mile perimeter near the Merrimack River.
The destructive insect, originally from China, was first discovered in this country in 2002.
As recently as last year, state forestry experts were saying it was only a matter of time before the emerald ash borer surfaced here.
The beetle is voracious and deadly. Affected trees generally are dead within two to five years of infestation.
Ash, used for firewood and lumber, represents about 4 percent of the state’s hardwood forest.
In addition to its commercial uses, ash seeds are a food source for some birds, turkeys, black bears and rodents. The tree is popular for landscaping and often found in urban downtowns and neighborhoods.
This is a good time of year to look for infestation, before trees fully leaf out.
That first infected tree was noticed by someone who saw a lot of woodpecker activity there. That can be a good indication of the presence of emerald ash borer.
The adult beetle is metallic green, with a bullet-shaped body, and is about half an inch long.
State officials are urging landowners and other residents to be on the lookout for the insect.
There are two informational meetings Thursday at the New Hampshire Fire Academy, 98 Smokey Bear Blvd., Concord, from 1 to 3 p.m. and from 6 to 8 p.m.
“Once we have a good handle on where this is and how big it is, we’ll get our management strategy finalized and out to landowners,” said Brad Simpkins, interim director of the Division of Forests and Lands. “We’re hoping to do that by mid-May. We’re in this for the long haul to try and keep this population as small as possible, reduce it as much as possible and keep it from spreading any farther.”
The discovery of that first infested tree in Concord marks the easternmost detection site in the country. Eighteen other states and two Canadian provinces also are fighting infestations.
Education and awareness are key to combatting these unwanted insects, officials said.
For more information, call the UNH Cooperative Extension Forestry Information Center hotline at 1-800-444-8978, or visit nhbugs.org. Information there will help residents identify and report the emerald ash borer and other non-native, invasive insects.