They're small in size, growing in number and eating their way across New York State. The Emerald Ash Borer was spotted for the first time in Onondaga County. It's the 16th county to be affected. The tiny bug can kill a tree in just two years, leaving a large, decaying hazard in its wake. Sarah Blazonis tells us what groups there and in a neighboring county are doing to stop the spread.
OSWEGO, N.Y. -- They tend to blend into woodland scenery and though they cover just seven percent of the state, ash trees play a big role in the CNY landscape. That includes at SUNY Oswego's Rice Creek Field Station.
"We're over 60 percent. If you take a walk along the trails, especially at the trail heads, there's an overwhelming amount of ash," said Shelby Alavekios, an educator with the Nature Conservancy.
And they're standing out more than usual. Several were tagged with the help of the Oswego County Soil and Water Conservation District during an event sponsored by the St. Lawrence-Eastern Lake Ontario Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management. It was aimed at educating people about the dangers of the Emerald Ash Borer.
"It's not in Oswego County to our knowledge," said Alavekios. "It is in surrounding counties and it was just found in DeWitt, New York. So that is really close and that's why we really want to raise awareness within this county."
Meanwhile, officials with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Onondaga County are working to stop the beetles in its tracks.
"Part of slowing the spread is recognizing when it's there in the environment, so everybody needs to look at their trees and their landscape and see if they have an ash tree," said Jessi Lyons, a natural resources team coordinator with CCE.
Once you've figured out if you've got ash trees on your property, there are a few telltale signs to see if you might have an EAB infestation. First of all, check the top of the tree for thinning leaves. Second, if you've got any woodpecker damage, that might be from the birds trying to make a meal of the beetles. And finally, check the bark for D-shaped exit holes.
And while they're hoping for the best, officials say local governments are also preparing for the worst. They say states out west were hit hard by large infestations and too many decaying ash trees.
"They literally don't have enough labor and enough trucks out there to remove ash trees fast enough so that they're not a hazard. So this has been very crippling for budgets for municipalities," said Lyons.
For now, experts say the most important step is getting people to look closer at a tree that usually doesn't get a second glance.
For more information about how to identify an ash tree and signs of an EAB infestation, visit www.nyis.info.