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Asian Invasion

Signs in Albany seek to prepare residents for the coming of an invasive insect that kills ash trees

by Molly Eadie on July 26, 2012

On the corner of Lancaster and Dove streets in Albany’s Center Square, bright yellow signs attached with purple ribbons hang from the neighborhood’s two ash trees. The signs warn that these trees, along with all ash trees in New York state, are in danger of being destroyed soon by the emerald ash borer beetle.

Beware: Signs in Albany's Center Square warn of the impending arrivial of the emerald ash borer beetle. Photo by Molly Eadie.

This invasive species is an Asian beetle that feeds on and destroys ash trees, and made news last July when Metroland reported the pest’s presence in the Catskills [“If a Tree Falls, Will They all Fall?,” July 7, 2011]. With no natural predators in the United States, the bug will kill any infected tree in two to four years.

The beetle is not currently in Albany, but experts believe it will be only a matter of time. The signs in Center Square are a part of a public awareness campaign to help New Yorkers identify ash trees and to urge people against moving firewood, which the Department of Environmental Conservation believes causes the spread of the ash-attacking pest.

Albany’s city forester, Thomas Pfeiffer, has been busy preparing for the arrival of the species. In addition to the eye-catching signage, Pfeiffer has attended seminars on how to manage the destructive insect. In 2011, the city stopped planting ash trees in Albany altogether. He estimates that there are more than 30 ash trees in Washington Park, and many more around the city.

“The heat and dry weather we’ve been experiencing causes trees to drop leaves because they are stressed,” said Pfeiffer. “There is usually an increase in negative insect activity with trees being overstressed.”

When the species does come to Albany, he said the ashes won’t all be wiped out immediately, and some trees might remain uninfected due to isolation. “If we can get information out to identify and control it,” Pfeiffer said, “hopefully it doesn’t get to be too bad of a problem.”