Invasive Species-Emerald Ash Borer

This is the second in our series of articles regarding invasive species. In this article we are going to discuss the background and current status of the emerald ash borer.

The emerald ash borer is native to Asia and is thought to have been introduced here by wood cargo transported in shipping cargo from China to the Great Lakes region. It was first discovered in Michigan near Detroit in 2002. Since then it has reportedly killed over 5 million ash trees across the northeast. It is also now present in the southern border areas of Canada.

This species is spreading incredibly fast and considering that there are a variety of ash trees in most of the U.S. states; this invader could do massive destruction in the very near future. Once attacked by these beetles, the tree will usually be dead in three to five years.

The adult ash borer feeds on foliage causing a noticeable reduction in the trees canopy, however; this does only minor damage to the tree itself. The real devastation comes from the larvae of the beetle, which bores beneath the bark of the tree causing permanent damage. They leave behind a distinct “S” shaped path in the trees inner bark and disrupt the trees ability to carry water and nutrients throughout the tree.

You may have noticed over the last few years purple triangular objects tied high in the trees. I know in the Adirondacks I have seen them at every campground I have visited. These are actually scented glue traps that are being used to detect the beetle’s presence. They do little to combat the beetle problem directly, but they do enable researchers to detect them early enough to attempt to manage the attack.


Campers and hikers can help slow the advancement of these beetles by buying or gathering firewood near their camp. It is really important not to transport wood from one area to another as I am sure most of you have already been made aware of. This is why!

Treatment for an ash borer invasion is limited, to say the least. Pesticide applied on the surface of the tree can kill adult beetles, but does nothing to stop the destructive larvae. Some states have used a systematic pesticide that is injected into the root of the tree with great results. Unfortunately this method is not cost effective, or a viable solution given the amount of ash trees that would need to be treated to make an impact on the invasion.

Besides the obvious environmental effect, these beetles are also having an economical impact. In North America there are native Indian populations that rely on the ash trees to support their handcrafted goods industry. The loss of these trees will surely have an impact on the future of their trade. There is also the cost involved in removing dead trees, planting replacement trees, and the drop in property values due to the loss of landscape. Consequently there is the cost of researchers, treatments, and supplies that are being filtered down to the tax payers.

These beetles present just another example of how careless humans can be. Not to say the ash borer was released here on purpose, but regulations should be in place to prevent such an event. Perhaps quarantines for imported goods or treatments to cargo pallets could be done in the future to help avoid other invasive species from being inadvertently released.

From what I have read during my research there doesn’t seem to be anything we can do to completely stop this invasion. So, what we are currently faced with is an alien species that can continue to invade our nation’s forests without much interruption. As patrons of the great outdoors we can do our part to limit the spread by not transporting firewood and by reporting any sightings to local wildlife agencies.

As always thanks for reading and for helping keep our environment clean for future generations! If you would like to be even more informed about the emerald ash borer take a look at this pdf file from the department of entomology at Michigan State University. I have also embedded a video from that discusses the beetle’s impact in the Hudson Valley in NY.

Michael ORiley, Basic Author

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March 30th, 2012

This is a really beautiful insect, but what it promises to do to our forests is unthinkable. Bringing it to the attention of those who frequent campgrounds and woodlands is a good idea. I will be on the lookout and try to do my part.


April 2nd, 2012

In this day and age, I’m surprised that all species aren’t around the world at this point. At least, where the climate allows. I wonder what this beetle ate in Asia and if they could introduce their natural food source to counteract the ash destruction.

Teresa@ Gardening and Plants

April 10th, 2012

Hi There Mightyangler,
Thanks for the info, A lot of buzz has been generated lately about the danger to Minnesota’s 975 million ash trees due to the influx of the emerald ash borer. This threat to Minnesota’s trees is very real and the state has taken action to assess the danger and protect our trees. Larvae from the emerald ash borer kill ash trees by tunneling into the tree’s bark and damaging the circulatory system of the tree. Millions of ash trees have been damaged or destroyed by the pest across Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Ontario, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

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