Somerville to cut trees to prevent attacks by invasive insects

Somerville is set to take down 150 ash trees around the city.
Somerville is set to take down 150 ash trees around the city.Ari Massefski

Somerville officials say they haven’t detected any emerald ash borers, invasive insects capable of decimating urban canopies, in the city.

And they want to keep it that way.

To stay ahead of the game, workers are planning to cut down more than 100 ash trees lining city blocks to prevent any future infestations.

A public hearing about the city’s proposal to take an axe to 150 of the trees — there are 900 throughout Somerville, making up roughly 8 percent of the city’s total tree inventory — will be held at 5:30 p.m. on May 25 at the Department of Public Works water department building.


Orange placards and descriptions of the damage that ash borers are capable of doing have been placed on susceptible trees — those that are in poor health or dying. A Web link showing which trees are likely to be removed was also set up.

Ash borers, emerald-colored beetles native to Asia, commonly arrive on wooden cargo pallets and crates used to transport goods to the United States. The insects, first discovered in the Berkshires town of Dalton in 2012, have killed billions of dollars worth of ash trees across the country in recent years. The insects look to weak and unhealthy trees to make their homes.

The emerald ash borer.
The emerald ash borer.Republican-American via AP/file 2012

City spokeswoman Jaclyn Rossetti said Somerville’s 750 healthy ash trees will be treated with “preventive medicine” to protect them from the tiny insects.

“It is our understanding that, should those trees deemed unhealthy remain, they would likely not respond well to the same preventive measures,” Rossetti said in an e-mail.

She said that if the trees identified as likely targets for the ash borer aren’t taken down, they could put the other trees at risk.

“If they do come to Somerville, they will get into the poor trees and jeopardize the health of others,” she said in a telephone interview.


Rossetti stressed that the 150 trees being considered for removal will be replaced with different trees.

“I think the hearing will help clear that up for some folks, but we do want to hear the concerns from the public,” she said.

Other municipalities, such as neighboring Cambridge, are also keeping an eye on ash borers.

Owen O’Riordan, Cambridge’s public works commissioner, said crews plan to treat ash trees around the city and identify those that may be weak or dying.

“We will be trying to avoid that if possible, but if trees are in a state of decay,

If trees are decaying, “they’re more likely to become specimens [for the ash borer],” he said. “And we don’t want that to happen.”

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.