Intern Finds Invasive and Destructive Beetle at Arnold Arboretum

The emerald ash borer is an invasive beetle that eats and destroys ash trees.
The emerald ash borer is an invasive beetle that eats and destroys ash trees. –AP

Ash trees, beware! An invasive beetle that eats you for breakfast has made its way to Boston.

An intern at the Arnold Arboretum was the one to discover the first of the metallic green beetles, called emerald ash borers, during a routine check of the park’s pest detection traps.

“We knew it was going to be here at some point,’’ said Jon Hetman of Arnold Arboretum of the species’s arrival. “We’ve been waiting for it.’’

Since arriving in North America in 2002, emerald ash borers have decimated ash populations across the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic. The species is native to Asia, and most likely hitched a transoceanic ride on wooden packaging material on a cargo ship. They reached Massachusetts in 2012.


The beetles destroy ash trees by burying beneath their bark and disrupting their circulatory systems, blocking the flow of nutrients and water. Trees usually die within three to five years of invasion.

Ash borers have caused millions of dollars in damage for homeowners, municipalities, and parks across 23 states for tree treatment and removal. Massachusetts residents could be looking at a high bill, as well – the state has about 45 million ash trees, according to The Boston Globe

The beetle isn’t the only invasive species on the arboretum’s most wanted list right now. Fifteen horticulturists are also battling hemlock woolly adelgid, winter moss, and dutch elm disease across the park’s 281 acres.

“It’s not a lot of people for a very large area,’’ Hetman said. “Dealing with pests is just one of the things that’s on their plate.’’

To help stem damage from invasive species, the arboretum has partnered with the Department of Conservation and Recreation to trap emerald ash borers and halt their spread. The DCR will also be holding public meetings to teach residents how to identify infested trees.

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