HP ash trees dodged the beetle bullet – for now

A beetle found in the northwestern section of Highland Park is not the tree-deadly emerald ash borer, the state Department of Agriculture has said.

The emerald ash borer (EAB) is an invasive species of beetle that hails from China. Since its arrival in the United States more than 12 years ago, it has spread across the eastern half of the United States. The tree kills ash trees within a few years of infestation, and last week environmental officials were investigating whether it had been found in Highland Park.

“We believe one of our inspectors confirmed what was found was not (an emerald ash borer) but a native borer,” said Lynne Richmond, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Agriculture in an email.

She did not specify what type of beetle the specimen was.

There are a number of wood-boring beetles native to New Jersey, where they also are biological controls in nature to contain the population. As a native of Southeast Asia, the emerald ash borer has no native predators in North America. However researchers in Michigan introduced a predator wasp in 2007; and researchers at the University of Kentucky in 2014 discovered that native wasps there had begun to prey upon the beetle.

Council President Susan Welkovits, who first shared the news with borough officials about the potential beetle sighting, was encouraged by the good news but still sounded a note of caution.

“This doesn’t exactly rule out that EAB is not present, but that the sample we collected was not EAB,” she said.

There were confirmed ash borer infestations in 2014 in Hillsborough, Bridgewater, Westhampton. Ewing and West Windsor, according to the state Department of Agriculture. The Eugene Young Environmental Education Center has had a trap on site since earlier this year to monitor for the anticipated arrival of the beetles in Highland Park.

They haven’t definitely come yet. But they may be on their way.

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