An iridescent Asian beetle responsible for the death of millions of trees in the Midwest is consolidating its hold over Saugerties ash trees. The emerald ash borer, first spotted in Saugerties at a campground in 2010, is now present in trees throughout the town.
With no practicable way to halt the spread of the beetle, Saugerties ash trees are an endangered species.
“I really think their days may be numbered here in the village,” said a saddened George Terpening, superintendent of parks, buildings and grounds.
Last year, the village removed three grand old ash trees from the Village Beach park, as well as trees at the Kiersted House on Main St. and Seamon Park. This year, it will remove two more from Seamon Park and several across the street.
It’s in its larvae stage that the beetle does its worst, feeding under the bark of trees, which cuts off the tree’s flow of water and nutrients. The trees that are infested are dead within two or three years. Ash borers don’t fly very far from where they are hatched; scientists say they spread through firewood. A DEC quarantine forbidding transport of wood across county lines or more than 50 miles is in effect.
When the weather warms, the village will survey trees on village property and remove any that show signs of infestation, including small D-shaped holes, dead areas in the canopy and winding pathways eaten out of wood under the bark.
While there is a spray that can be used, at between $200 to $300 a tree, it doesn’t always work. “So we will cut them down, burn them,” said Terpening. “This is the year we have to bite the bullet and take care of the problem.”