The New Jersey Department of Agriculture has issued a warning about the discovery of the destructive emerald ash borer in five towns.

Emerald ash borer compared to a penny (NJ Dept. of Agriculture)

"Emerald ash borer (EAB) is a fast-moving, highly destructive invasive pest, which could lead to the death of ash trees," said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher in a press release. "Now that the beetle is in New Jersey and is starting to spread, we ask that towns put plans in place to respond to the beetle."

Residents of Bridgewater, Hillsborough, Westampton, Ewing and West Windsor are being urged to protect their ash trees. The state Department of Agriculture has set up traps in 27 towns in Burlington, Camden, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex. Monmouth, Morris, Somerset and Union counties. It takes three to five years for trees to die from the EAB.

From almost the beginning of their existence, EAB are harmful to the North American species of true ash. Female EAB beetles lay eggs on the bark of ash trees. The eggs hatch and the larvae bore into the bark to the fluid-conducting vessels underneath. As they feed and develop, they cut off the flow of nutrients and eventually kill the tree.

The presence of the EAB was first discovered in New Jersey, according to the Department of Agriculture, by a Bridgewater homeowner in May 2014. It is now present in 25 states and two Canadian provinces.

Signs of the EAB beetle should be reported to the Department of Agriculture at 609-406-6939.

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