Trees are under threat by tiny insects

Kelly Cothren

The emerald ash borer is a beetle that has killed at least 6 million ash trees in southeastern Michigan since 2002.  It is starting to make its way into Ohio, and if not stopped, it may soon be found at Kent State.

“It has already been found in 10 counties in Ohio,” said graduate student Constance Hausman, who is doing a dissertation on the effects of the emerald ash borer. “This is a huge issue because there are around 3.8 billion ash trees in Ohio, which is one tree out of every 10.”

The emerald ash borer, a native of Asia, was transported to the United States by solid wood packing material carried in cargo ships and airplanes. It was discovered in southeastern Michigan near Detroit and now has even been found as far south as Columbus.

All North American ash trees are susceptible to the beetle, and those infected will undoubtedly die. An infested tree has a 100 percent morality rate and will die in three to five years, Hausman said.

“The beetle works its way under the bark and feeds on inner bark of the ash trees,” biology professor Ferenc De Szalay said. “This blocks nutrients and water from being transported throughout the tree, basically choking it.”

If the beetle makes it to Kent State, there is nothing that can be done to save the ash trees.

“The beetle is devastating because there is no control for it,” grounds manager Heather White said. “If it infects one tree, all the ash trees around it will have to be chopped down, chipped and burned. There are anywhere from one to 200 ash trees on campus, so if one is infected, almost all of the others will have to be chopped.”

It is difficult to determine if a tree is infected or not. The decline in the health of the tree is gradual and the holes left by the beetle are only an eighth of an inch wide.

State and federal agencies have made the emerald ash borer problem a priority. The agencies are working with municipalities, universities and the greening industry to find a solution to the problem.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture Web site, educating the public at large is essential to eliminate this pest. In Michigan, there have been PBS specials on the beetle and notices on billboards. Everyone that lives in a county where the beetle has been found has received a flier with information, Hausman said.

Some information and advice the department gives is:

ƒ-S Don’t move firewood.

Humans unknowingly contribute to the spread of emerald ash borer when they move firewood. The larvae can survive hidden under the bark.

ƒ-S Visually inspect trees.

Early detection is a key factor. If trees display any sign or symptom of an infestation, contact the state agriculture agency.

ƒ-S Spread the word.

Talk to neighbors, friends and coworkers and get them on board. Public awareness and education is an ongoing process.

ƒ-S Know state and federal regulation.

Understand the regulations that govern Ohio and any other state that might be visited.

ƒ-S Ask questions.

When receiving ash nursery stock, know its origin and the supplier. Emerald ash borer larvae may be hiding under the tree bark.

Contact building and ground reporter Kelly Cothren at [email protected].


Emerald Ash Borer Facts

ƒ-S It attacks only ash trees

ƒ-S Adult beetles are metallic green and about half an inch long.

ƒ-S Adults leave a D-shaped exit hole in the bark when they emerge in the spring

ƒ-S Woodpeckers like the larvae; heavy woodpecker damage on an ash tree may be a sign of infestation

ƒ-S Firewood cannot be moved in many areas of Michigan, Ohio and Indiana because of the emerald ash borer quarantine

ƒ-S It probably came from Asia in wood packing material