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Fighting exotic species

The invasion of the emerald ash borer

by Adam Hostetter/Sports & Entertainment Editor

In recent years many regions of the United States are battling against foreign invaders of all kinds, from the Asian carps in the Mississippi river to the kudzu of the South. There are quite a few in local backyards from the dandelion (originating from Europe) to the autumn olive (from Asia). However, none has had a more devastating effect than the emerald ash borer, a tiny bug no bigger than a penny that is from Asia.

These shiny green insects can decimate ash tree populations, and, according to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, were first discovered in Michigan in 2002, then found in Illinois in 2006. Since then the emerald ash borer has destroyed ash tree populations in the southeastern portion of Michigan, and they are spreading.

The emerald ash borer is a destructive pest that is destroying ash trees throughout the eastern U.S. and has decimated the ash trees so much that there is a federal quarantine zone to inhibit EAB from spreading. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

The emerald ash borer is a destructive pest that is destroying ash trees throughout the eastern U.S. and has decimated the ash trees so much that there is a federal quarantine zone to inhibit EAB from spreading.
Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

Emerald ash borers are so destructive that there is a federal quarantine on firewood and ash products in the Midwestern U.S. to limit the bugs spread. All of Illinois is within this federal quarantine, and the bug has been confirmed to be in northeastern Effingham County. The IDA stresses that transporting firewood out of its local area can exacerbate the spread of the emerald ash borer, so campers should get the firewood from where they are camping.

The emerald ash borer actually kills ash trees in the larvae stage of its life cycle. After the eggs hatch in the bark of the tree, the larvae bore into the ash tree, tunneling through the inner bark and cutting off the flow of food and water. Infected trees show multiple symptoms, such as crown dieback (where the top of the tree usually loses leaves), ‘sucker’ formation (many new branches forming on the trunk), and a D-shaped hole of 1/8 inch diameter in the side of the tree. Other native insect borers leave round or oval holes of varying sizes.

Ash trees are common trees, so when the Illinois Department of Agriculture claims that “all ash trees near any new infestation will most likely become infested and die,” there are alarm bells ringing in people’s minds. Prevention and control treatments continue to be studied for this serious issue.


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