A Deadly Hitchhiker: The Emerald Ash Borer

| 2/19/2009 2:05:33 PM

Tags: trees, insects, pests,

Cindy MurphyI just read a pest update article in The Michigan Landscape, a horticultural trade magazine, which states that the Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) revised its Emerald Ash Borer quarantine to consolidate all 68 counties of the Lower Peninsula into one quarantine level effective immediately. The article is just another reminder of a nearly decade long battle we’ve been fighting in this state – a battle which we’ve seemingly lost.

If you think this might be a localized issue restricted only to Michigan, or have never heard of Emerald Ash Borer, I urge you to please read further.

Emerald Ash Borer AdultEmerald Ash Borer (EAB) is an insect native to Asia which was first discovered in the United States in the Detroit area in 2002. It’s thought this exotic pest gained entry into the country by hitching a ride on wood packing crates loaded on cargo ships and planes. Despite strict regulations and quarantines, the pest has spread to Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec, and most recently was discovered last summer in Wisconsin, Missouri, and Virginia.

States affected by the Emerald Ash Borer infestation

The death toll this pest has dealt our native ash species is staggering, (please note that mountain ash is not affected; it is a completely different genus). Since its discovery here less than ten years ago, EAB has killed or infested approximately 35 million ash trees in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula alone, and caused the death of 25 million more in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and other affected states. The effects of it spreading further will be an unfathomable amount of lost trees and money. Emerald Ash Borer has already cost government agencies, municipalities, property owners, nursery operators, and forest industries tens of millions of dollars.

Larval tunnelling in a tree affected by the Emerald Ash BorerThe fatal damage is caused by the larva, which feeds under the bark of the ash trees, effectively girdling the tree, making it unable to take up water and nutrients. The trees die in three to four years. Because the larva feed unseen, damage usually remains undetected until the tree starts showing signs of stress, occurring first in the crown of the tree as it becomes deprived of nutrients.

Cindy Murphy
2/25/2009 10:54:51 AM

(to continue where my comment was cut off because I've gotten too wordy again) I appreciate the opportunity Grit presents by allowing me through this blog to spread the word farther than any other venue I have available to me, (thanks for the Twitter tip too, I might have to check into it). If even only a couple people read this, they may think twice about what's lurking in their firewood. Thanks for the kind words about the blueberry article too; I'm glad it may help you in growing them. And you've GOT to try the salsa...so good, and easy too!

Cindy Murphy
2/25/2009 10:51:51 AM

Thanks for commenting, Debbie. It's an issue I feel strongly about and think that part of the reason why EAB has, and is still spreading, is because many people are unaware it exists. When I sat down to write this article, I was reminded of something I read in Grit last fall, (I pulled out my back-copy to verify....and PLEASE, I mean absolutely no disrespect to Grit or the persons mentioned in the article). It was an article about Award-Winning Woodpiles, and stated the 2007 winner lived in New York near the Allegheny foothills of Pennsylvania where he has access to "...beech, yellow birch, WHITE ASH, red oak, and hickory that make up most of his woodpile..." He can't use all that wood himself, so most of it is delivered to paying customers. EAB was discovered in Pennsylvania in 2007, the same year he won the contest, so it was most highly unlikely EAB was heard of in that area. Unfortunately, it seems, it's the quarantines after the fact that alerts the public. But hypothetically - and although I don't think it's been found in the Allegheny region yet - infected wood could have crossed state lines, giving EAB a broader range. It's extremely sad to me that one of our native tree species is in such jeopardy. The white ash National Champion, (1990), enormous even by an ash's standards at 114 feet tall, was located near southwest Detroit. I wonder if it still survives? But it's not just a nature lover's problem; ash is only second to oak in value as an American lumber tree. It's used to make a myriad of products; probably most notable is the baseball bat. The Great American Pastime threatened by a foreign invader? Maybe not, but even Louisville Slugger's website has a section devoted to Emerald Ash Borer, warning the public, "quite simply DO NOT MOVE FIREWOOD!" I appreciate the opportunity Grit presents by allowing me through this blog to spread the word farther than any other

2/25/2009 8:36:30 AM

Cindy - Our area here in Kane County, Illinois is under quarantine and has been for a while now. I keep all the firewood here and wouldn't even dream of bringing it down south. I really enjoyed your article in the latest issue of the GRIT magazine "Grow Healthy, Delicious Blueberries" starting on page 76. Excellent advice and definitely helpful for my future pursuit at growing the berries. I will have to try that Blueberry Salsa ... different, yes! On another note, you should check out Twitter (if you're not there already) would help folks follow you easier I think. I've only been there a few days myself, but it seems like a helpful tool.

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