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Lowe’s may have sold trees infested with invasive beetles at Maine stores

The Maine DACF is seeking the public’s help in locating ash trees at Lowe’s stores in Maine this past year.
Credit: www.arborday.org

AUGUSTA, Maine — Trees sold in several Maine Lowe’s stores may have been infested with an invasive insect that kills ash trees, the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) says.

The Maine DACF says 36 ash trees were purchased during the spring and summer from Lowe’s stores in Auburn, Augusta, Bangor, Brewer, Brunswick, Portland, Sanford, Scarborough, Thomaston, and Windham. DACF Horticulture and Forest Health officials are concerned that the trees, labeled as Ash Green, Fraxinus pennsylvanica, may contain emerald ash borer (EAB), an invasive insect that kills ash trees. The trees were sold potted for $29.98.

The Maine DACF says the trees originated at a nursery located in an EAB infested and quarantined area.

EAB were first detected in Michigan in 2002, and have since spread across 35 states through various wood products, including firewood and trees sold for planting.

All of York and Cumberland Counties, as well as parts of Oxford County and the northeastern corner of Aroostook County, are currently under EAB quarantine. EAB currently infests a small percentage of ash trees in Maine, according to the DACF.

Maine DACF says the quarantine boundaries were drawn to form a buffer on those towns where EAB had been detected. EAB was found in northern Aroostook County in May 2018, western York County in September 2018, and Cumberland County in September 2019.

"DACF remains committed to delaying this pest's impacts in uninfested areas through education, survey, quarantine, and biological control efforts," Maine DACF said in a release. 

Maine DACF suggests that everyone refrain from planting any ash tree (Fraxinus spp., not mountain-ash) and the white fringe tree (Chionanthus sp.). EAB is established in Maine, and EAB infestations surround the state in Vermont, New Hampshire, New Brunswick, and Quebec. Ornamental ash trees in areas with EAB infestation require regular application of insecticides to survive and thrive.

"DACF extends its gratitude to Lowe's and Clinton Nurseries for their response to this ash tree incident," DACF said in a release. "DACF and Lowes staff worked collaboratively to address the situation, inform customers who purchased ash trees, and hang informational signage at Lowe's stores throughout Maine."

Customers who have not already been contacted by Lowe’s are asked to get in touch with Maine State Horticulture Program, by emailing bugwatch@maine.gov or calling directly at 207-287-7545.

Lowe's did not immediately respond for comment.