Want to help in the fight against emerald ash borer? Here’s what you need to know

Emerald ash borer (EAB), an exotic invasive from Asia, has infested 24 states and 2 Canadian provinces. It was discovered in Michigan in 2001, but scientists believe it had been in the country since the early 1990s. Because ash is one of the most common tree genera in North America, the pest’s prolific nature and fatal impact on trees make it the most economically and ecologically costly forest insect to invade North America. The information below is meant to help you understand more about EAB and be able to help slow its spread.

EAB has been found in the following states and Canadian provinces: Michigan, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Ontario and Quebec. In some states, such as Georgia and Colorado, the infestation is in just a few counties; other states are nearly completely infested.

The Emerald Ash Borer website has a map with detailed information about which counties have been infested: http://www.emeraldashborer.info/map.cfm#sthash.rjaJi95n.p1yI5LfJ.dpbs

EAB is an oblong-shaped, deep green colored insect, winged. Adult females deposit their eggs on the bark of ash trees. When the larvae hatch, they bore into the tree and feed on the inner bark. The feeding disrupts the nutrition system of the tree, so the tree dies. Adults exit from the tree, making D-shaped holes that can help identify trees that are inhabited by EAB.

Often locating exit holes to identify infested trees is difficult, as EAB seem to colonize upper portions of the canopy before they move to the main trunk. As more larvae infest the tree, the canopy thins and branches begin to die. At this point, the tree will usually die within 2-4 years.

Ash trees are one of the most widely distributed tree species in North America, so the ecological and economic impacts of the pest can be devastating.

Unlike some other invasive beetles that feed on several species of trees, EAB feeds only on ash trees. The three North American species—white, green and black—are particularly vulnerable. Ash species native to China are resistant to the pest, which is why EAB was not considered a species of concern before it entered the U.S. However, since then, both Russia and China have reported similar devastation of North American ash species planted in both countries.

Although EAB can fly, its flying radius is fairly minimal. Most of the long-range travel has been achieved with the unsuspecting help of people. Because early infestations are so difficult to detect (because EAB colonizes the upper canopy first so remains undetected until the tree shows signs of stress), EAB can multiply and spread quickly through an area once it enters a county or state.

The public can be a valuable asset in slowing the spread of EAB and preventing the pest from entering non-infested states. Here is a list of ways to help:

  1. Check the Emerald Ash Borer distribution map for counties that have been infested. The EAB website updates a list of counties and new areas of quarantine, so be sure to check the page with general state information.
  2. If you are in an area that is noted as having EAB, do not buy firewood to take to another county or area. If you do buy firewood, be sure that it has been heat-treated, or use it only in the county where you bought it. Ash firewood that has been dried naturally can still harbor larvae. If you do not know what kind of tree your firewood originated from, ask the merchant. Emerald ash borer infests ONLY ash trees, but they can hitch rides on other tree species.
  3. If you’re not sure about the rules of quarantines, read our blog post about Georgia’s quarantine or go to http://www.emeraldashborer.info for stipulations of another state’s quarantine.
  4. If you have bought wood in an area that has been infested by EAB, go ahead and burn all of it while you’re there. EAB is killed only at high heat, so there is no way to contain the insect to bring it back to another area.
  5. Check any camping gear, shoes, clothing and vehicles for the insect. It’s very easy to transport an insect that is trapped in your car without knowing it. If you do happen to find that you’ve taken an adult borer home, don’t panic. Several states have telephone hotlines to report EAB, and the sooner you call, the less likely the insect is to produce massive populations.

Researchers have estimated that if EAB continues expanding at its current rate, it is likely to have an economic impact of $12.5 billion by the year 2020. Researchers and regulators can do their part, but so can you as a citizen.

For more information, go to http://www.emeraldashborer.info. The site has a variety of detailed information about the pest, including precise locations of where it has been found. If you don’t know if you live in a county that has been inhabited by EAB, go to the site and find out, especially if you’re planning to purchase wood, lumber or trees from a nursery and bring them to another state.

Source for information: Herms, D.A. and McCullough, D.G. (2014) Emerald ash borer invasion of North America: History, biology, ecology, impacts and management. Annu. Rev. Entomol. 59: 13-30. Doi: 10.1146/annurev-ento-011613-162051.

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