How the emerald ash borer kills trees


Lindenwood Park (Voxitatis)

Walking along the Red River in Fargo, North Dakota, it’s difficult not to notice the green ribbons tied around ash trees in Lindenwood Park, declaring that the tree is “at risk” and advertising a non-existent website. Like about 35 states, North Dakota is concerned about the emerald ash borer that destroys trees.

The insect bores into trees—not just any tree, though, as this pest has a particular affinity for ash trees—and tunnels under the bark, consuming the tissue in the trunk that moves nutrients up and down. The invasive species was first discovered in Minnesota in 2009 and is now found in 35 states.

Officials in Wright County, Minnesota, just northwest of the Twin Cities, issued an emergency quarantine earlier this month after discovering emerald ash borers in the city of Clearwater. People have been ordered not to transport firewood, making it necessary for them to buy and burn firewood locally from approved vendors.


Road sign in W.Va. (smartstock)

People there—and in other places now under quarantine—are checking any ash trees carefully to look for signs of infestation. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has produced a guide entitled “Do I Have Emerald Ash Borer?” that people can use as a watch list.

It is suspected that the beetle came to the US, most likely from Asia, on wood pallets or shipping containers. Its favorite mode of spreading is to hitchhike a ride on wood that is transported out of the infested area. Officials have realized they can’t stop the beetle but think that keeping wood from an infested area within that area will help to slow down its spread.

The government in Queen City, Vermont, might have to cut down all the ash trees and replace them with other species less susceptible to the EAB, the Burlington Free Press reports.


(Yod67 / iStock)

Once the larvae set up shop in a tree, it can become brittle, more likely to break. When it falls, it could potentially damage vehicles, utility lines, or homes. So although removing a mature tree can cost homeowners or towns about $1000, the damage the tree could cause when it falls might be more costly.

This is largely why so much effort is going into quarantines across the US. If the spread of the insect can be slowed down, cities and property owners might be able to spread the millions of dollars removal is expected to cost over something like 10 years instead of paying for all of it within five.

About the Author

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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