One tiny beetle is causing big headaches in Western Massachusetts, as a state agency readies to issue strict restrictions on transport of the most common form of wood, to stop the spread of a prolific tree killer.
It didn’t take much to put the state’s forest regulators on high alert about the potential spread of the emerald ash borer, a small beetle known to cause havoc on ash trees of all types.
“At this point it’s still a single bug that’s been found.”
Spokesperson S.J. Port says that single bug, which found its way into one of the purple traps hanging from trees around the region, has the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation contemplating the size of a quarantine on ash wood. It’s not a matter of if, but of how widespread it will be.
The department can levy the restrictions on just Berkshire County, where the beetle has already been found in Dalton, on the whole state, or something in-between. In either case, Ash wood would have to be treated before it’s moved.
Since the spread of the beetle is unpredictable, Port says the response can take different shapes and the department is considering potential economic impacts.
“We don’t have an exact science as to where it may spread to, and the quarantine and all these methods do their best to keep it from spreading, but it’s not as if we have a foolproof method. So that’s why we’re able to take in the economy of the situation.”
Only four percent of Massachusetts’ tree population is in the ash family, Port says, but most of that is in Berkshire County.
Berkshire loggers, builders, and even firewood dealers may prefer a quarantine on the whole state, to make it easier to get their wood to the nearest heat-treatment plant, which is in Worcester County. But this would also spread the reach of the regulations further.
The most recent quarantine of this type was put in place to combat the asian long horned beetle. Port says the latest menace is harder to eradicate.
“This bug is tiny. It is very common looking, it’s sort of this greeny brown shiny color, and it blends well and will not be as easy to spot. And that means it’s going to be harder to get rid of.”
The public has one more week to weigh in. An announcement about the quarantine is expected by mid-December.