CALS Leads Fight against Emerald Ash Borer
Emerald Ash Borer
CALS is leading efforts to manage outbreak populations of the emerald ash borer (EAB), a beetle that has the potential to devastate ash trees in the Northeast. The new invasive species first showed up in western New York last August in Cattaraugus County and is already in Steuben and Ulster counties.
“What we discovered last year were some rather heavily infested ash trees,” says John Vandenberg, research entomologist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service and CALS adjunct professor of entomology, who discovered the EAB in New York. He says he hopes that the new detections have been discovered early enough to prevent disastrous infestations.
Vandenberg, along with Mark Whitmore, a Cornell forest entomologist, and Melissa Fierke of the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, are working extensively with Cornell Cooperative Extension offices throughout New York to raise public awareness about the EAB.
While the bright green beetles cause no direct harm to humans, they can kill a North American ash tree in two to three years. The beetles threaten the Northeast’s hardwood forests and are a major potential liability to communities, Whitmore points out, because removing dead or infested trees costs $2,000 to $3,000 per tree. He recommends that communities conduct an urban tree inventory and lay out realistic plans for the eventual arrival of the EAB.
To keep the borer from spreading, the team has been strategically killing and removing infested ash trees to decrease the EAB population and to use the trees for research. With expected emergency funding from the Farm Bill, the team is considering identifying potential high-risk areas and perhaps importing several natural predator species of Chinese parasitic wasps if research proves them effective.
The EAB, a native of Asia, is believed to have made its way to the United States through wooden shipping crates. First detected in North America in 2002 near Detroit and southern Ontario, the EAB has since spread, likely via infested ash firewood, to 13 states and two Canadian provinces, killing hundreds of millions of ash trees. To discourage such spread of invasive species, New York enacted firewood regulations in May 2009 prohibiting the transport of untreated firewood beyond 50 miles. Consumers should only use firewood from local sources and never move firewood from dying trees.