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  • Writer's pictureApril Patterson

The Invasive Emerald Ash Borer

The invasive Emerald Ash Borer beetle was first introduced in Michigan 15 to 20 years ago on wood packing material sent from Asia. The ash borer is now found in 33 states and unfortunately spreading. The first known case in Tennessee was at a rest stop on I-40 near Knoxville in 2010. Now they have spread to over 59 counties around the state and climbing. It is vital that we educate ourselves and try to control the spread of the borer. For those that are not aware of this epidemic, I will try to go over a few need-to-know characteristics of this insect.

The adult is ½ inch long and 1/8 inch wide and mainly emerald green in color with metallic purple-red underbelly. The larvae are 1 to 1.2 inches long and are white or cream colored. The larvae is what does most of the damage to the ash trees. They leave S-shaped patterns under the bark of the tree, were they feed, thus not allowing the tree to transport nutrients and water. One of the first signs that a tree is infested is the top of the tree has thinning or a lack of leaves. The lack of nutrition is the key contributing factor in tree mortality and usually starts at the top and works its way on down the tree. This can take up to three years to see any signs of infestation. Another telling sign is a lot of woodpecker damage to the trees. This is a result of the woodpeckers trying to eat the larvae. The adults after hatching from the larvae stage leave D shaped exit holes in the bark. If you see any of these characteristics in ash trees around your area please contact your local forestry division.

According to the USDA Forest Service and the Tennessee Division of Forestry, an estimated 271 million ash trees in Tennessee, worth $11 billion, could potentially become infested with the emerald ash borer beetle. The USDA and local state agencies are conducting surveys all around the state. They are using purple box kite looking traps to check for populations of the borer. So if you see any of these purple triangular traps please do not disturb them, this data can be crucial in controlling and understanding the spread of the borer.

We can do a few things to help stop the spread of this invasive species. The biggest thing is to not move firewood to different areas. Best rule of thumb is burn it where you found it or buy USDA certified heat treated wood from your local vendor. The borer can also be transported in unprocessed ash logs, ash nursery stock, and other ash commodities. It is very important to know where the emerald ash borer quarantine boundaries are if you are traveling between states or even counties in your state. To help protect your local ash trees you can keep them healthy by watering, mulching, pruning and by the use of pesticides that target the emerald ash borer.

The most realistic goal is to control the spread of the borer as much as possible. The main point of this article is to educate and inform about these relatively new species that have been brought to our area. This article is not meant to put fear in the landowners, so they feel like they need to cut down all the ash trees on their properties. The best plan of action is to inform others and try to slow the spread of this invasive species that is threatening the ash trees that we all enjoy. If we all work together we stand a good chance at giving these beetles the ASH WHIPPING they need.

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