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So How Big Is The Problem

By Staff | Oct 26, 2017

I had never really heard about the emerald ash borer until I heard about it on tv. So with a lot of ash trees in the area, I decided to take a look at how they got here, where they come from, how to determine if a tree is infested and so on. What I found is, I feel, very important information on this pest and everyone should be on the lookout for this bug.

The emerald ash borer is on the Iowa Invasive Insect and Disease watch list and is considered to be one of the most destructive tree pests in years. They can kill a tree in as little as tow to four years by damaging the trees ability to transfer water and nutrients. The adult beetles feed on ash leaves causing little damage. It’s the larvae that feed under the bark. This also makes this destructive pest hard to detect until it is too late. Through experience we have learned that infestations tend to be well established and at least three to five years old. Currently, the emerald ash borer has been found in 52 of Iowa’s 99 counties. The closest county to us is Buena Vista.

The emerald ash borer is not considered a destructive pest in its native areas of Asia where it came from. Natural predators, insect disease and ash tree resistance kept the borer under control. Through international trade these pests were introduced to North America and they left behind the natural control devices of the species, which leaves them almost indestructible.

It is believed that the emerald ash borer made it to the U.S. in wooden crates, pallets or other shipping, stowing away within the materials. In 2002, this pest was found near the port city of Detroit, MI. The emerald ash borer was found for the first time in Iowa on an island in the main channel of the Mississippi River, less than one mile from infestations in Wisconsin and Minnesota. By February 2014, the entire State of Iowa was placed under quarantine and a matching statewide federal quarantine was also implemented. These quarantines state that all firewood sold in Iowa is to be labeled, which includes harvest location (county and state). Examples of articles not permitted to move from quarantined areas include all unprocessed ash such as ash logs, ash trees for planting green ash lumber or brush. Federal and State certification is required before moving any of these items from a quarantined area. It has been found that people moving infested firewood, nursery trees or sawmill logs started most of the emerald ash borer infestations in the United States unknowingly.

So how big is the problem you might wonder? Consider the following:

Over 40 million ash trees have been killed in Michigan

Millions more in other infested areas

The majority of Iowa towns and cities have planted ash trees along streets and in parks

Many private homes have ash trees for shade and comfort

Removal of dead and dying ash trees will cost Iowa communities millions of dollars

Research on the emerald ash borer was very limited prior to 2002 and less than two pages of scientific literature could be found in the entire world. All is not lost however, entomologists at the United States Department of Agriculture and several universities are intensely studying these small, yet highly destructive insects on order to better understand not only the insect but how to get rid of it.