LEWISTOWN - It's been a decade since the emerald ash borer beetle was first discovered in eastern Michigan and the destructive insect continues to spread throughout Pennsylvania.
The borer is native to several countries in Asia, including portions of Russia, China, Korea and Japan and is believed to have hitched a ride to the U.S. on wood used for crating consumer products, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture has said it cannot confirm that theory.
The borer first surfaced in Pennsylvania in 2007 in western counties and since that time has spread to the central region. Much of the commonwealth from Erie to Harrisburg remains in a quarantine zone where residents are advised not to transport firewood across county lines. All told, 23 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties have reported borer infestation.
As recently as the Fall of 2011, evidence of a Borer infestation was discovered in Greenwood Furnace State Park in Huntingdon County where 100 ash trees may be in danger.
Beetle larvae bore through ash trees, feeding on the inner bark and phloem, disrupting the flow of water and nutrients through the tree, causing their eventual death.
Park Manager Donald Coine Jr. said his principal concern is for visitors, because infected trees can become a danger as they decay.
Coine said some signs of borer infestation include dieback starting at the top of an ash tree, bark peeling away and falling off, exit holes in the bark from the beetle and irregular branching from the main trunk.
Coine said park officials have not found any beetles and the borer only presents a threat to ash trees, which is not a predominant tree in the area.
Ash is a hard wood, used to make a variety of things, including tools and baseball bats.
The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has begun pooling its varied resources and on Wednesday held a workshop targeting the emerald ash borer at Greenwood Furnace State Park.
"This exercise will see entomologists and foresters from our Bureau of Forestry working closely with our Bureau of State Parks' managers and biologists to combat the emerald ash borer, not just at Greenwood Furnace, but in woodlands across the state," DCNR Secretary Richard Allan said.
"This state park was picked because of the severity of its insect infestation," he added.
Coine said the trees will require individual treatment, which is a difficult task to undertake.
"These infected trees now are being inventoried and eventually many will have to be removed," Allan said.
"Tree removal will be concentrated in Greenwood Furnace's day-use, picnic and beach areas. Infested trees in forested settings are not targeted for removal at this time," Allan said.
Information on the emerald ash borer and other Pennsylvania forest pests can be found at www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/insectsdisease/index.htm.