Silent And Serious Threat: The Emerald Ash Borer

Posted on: 14 May 2021


Although not as common as some other woods such as pine, oak, or birch, a very versatile and widely used wood is ash. Ash wood has many characteristics that provide its versatility. The wood is typically very light-colored and has a straight grain pattern. This provides not only strength to the wood, but it also makes it easy to stain and finish which both attribute to its popularity as a wood for furniture production. In addition to being strong, it is also shock-resistant, which makes it the perfect choice for items such as baseball bats and hammer handles. 

While this popular wood is plentiful to provide for a myriad of uses, there is a recent development that could potentially threaten both the current and future supply. This threat is the emerald ash borer, a small insect that is spreading throughout the United States. First discovered in Michigan, it is believed that the beetles arrived as an infestation in wooden shipping pallets and containers from their native Asia. Since its discovery, the beetle has been found in well over half of the states as well as most of Canada.

Although the adult beetle itself does little damage to ash trees, the larvae are the ones responsible for the insect's name as they bore through the bark of the tree and into the inner wood, which in turn interferes with the tree's ability to transfer and absorb water and nutrients. This soon results in the death of the tree, with many of the ones lost being immature trees that do not provide usable wood.

In order to battle this intrusive species, foresters and others are taking drastic measures to limit or eradicate the further spread of the beetles. These measures include:

Pesticides — A coordinated effort between students, foresters, arborists, and others have developed insecticides that appear to be effective in controlling the rapid spread of the beetles.

Quarantine — Wood from areas where the beetle is known to be infecting trees is carefully handled and determined to be entirely free of the pests before being used or shipped.

Vigilance — By being aware of hot spots and further developments, scientists can always be ready to act to slow or even eliminate the threat.

By taking these measures, the people involved in solving this crisis have been able to effectively slow the spread of the beetles and reduce their numbers. By continuing these policies, there is hope that someday ash trees everywhere can be free of the emerald ash borer.