An emerald ash borer. Credit: Courtesy of the University of Maine

A beetle that is highly destructive to ash trees has been found in another six towns across Maine.

Emerald ash borer infestations have been confirmed in Gorham, Newfield, Ogunquit, Parsonsfield, Shapleigh, South Berwick and Van Buren, the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry said Thursday.

The emerald ash borer is highly destructive to ash trees. The invasive species has destroyed tens of millions of trees across the United States since it was first identified here in 2002, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

They are a severe threat to all of Maine’s native ash trees, state officials said.

Female adult emerald ash borers lay their eggs in the crack of ash tree bark. After they hatch, the larvae block water flow and other nutrients to the tree, slowly killing it. A healthy tree can die from an infestation in as little as five years.

The species was first identified in Maine in 2018, when it was found in Aroostook and York counties. While state officials have taken efforts to contain the beetle — including a quarantine on items that could carry them — the Maine Department of Agriculture said it’s monitoring programs show the species is expanding within the regions where it has been identified.

Emerald ash borer can be identified by girdling — removing bark — from an ash tree. Girdling a tree slowly kills it and makes it more attractive to the species, allowing their presence to be identified when the girdled tree is processed.

Of the 33 trees girdled and later processed by state officials this year in Aroostook, Cumberland, Hancock, Kennebec, Oxford, Penobscot and York counties, nine were found to have evidence of emerald ash borer. Besides the seven new locations, evidence of the borers was found in ash trees in Frenchville, Grand Isle and Portland.

The species can easily make its way from place to place. In August, agricultural officials found that trees potentially infected with the beetle were being sold in Lowe’s stores across Maine in violation of federal and state invasive species regulations.

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