The emerald ash borer, a beetle native to Asia that destroys ash trees by feeding on the layer of wood just beneath the bark, may spread across the east-central United States over the next two decades, according to officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Sharon Lucik, public affairs specialist for the USDA’s emerald ash borer program, says the USDA created a national committee to increase awareness and education about the beetle in affected areas – Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Ohio – as well as states that may be affected by the beetle. According to The Associated Press, USDA officials told the Senate environmental and Assembly forestry committees the emerald ash borer could affect more than 12,000 municipalities from Minnesota to North Carolina by 2027.
Lucik says humans have contributed to the “artificial movement” of the beetle largely through moving firewood from one place to another. “As soon as people understand that it is their behavior contributing to the problem, they can change their behavior,” Lucik says. Regulations in several states require people to buy firewood locally rather than transport it from one place to another.
Lucik says landscape professionals are engaged and support the efforts to stop the emerald ash borer, as they are on the front lines of the issue. “The landscape industry has a much more sensitive eye than a homeowner,” Lucik says. “They could perhaps recognize a declining tree long before I would.”
By remaining informed and able to recognize the signs of emerald ash borer infestation, landscapers have the opportunity to find infestations at an early stage. Lucik recommends reporting any suspected cases.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Web site, some signs of emerald ash borer infestation include: dieback of the upper and outer crown of the tree, epicormic sprouting at the base and/or on the bole of the tree, vertical splits in the bark and woodpecker feeding (woodpeckers feed on EAB larvae).
Landscapers in quarantined areas (Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Ohio) can also contribute to the effort by disposing of any tree debris properly, Lucik says. “To grind up any debris would eliminate any kind of larvae from pupating,” Lucik says. Some areas have experienced problems when individuals who are not landscapers or other trained tree care professionals trim trees and then dump the tree debris on the side of the road.
Diversifying landscaped areas is also helpful, Lucik says, as many affected communities suffered from a monoculture of ash trees. “Tree-lined streets are now barren, whereas if there had been more diversity, there would not be such a stark contrast as it relates to EAB, here and now and in the future,” Lucik says.
Educating clients however possible is also important. After completing a job, mention the emerald ash borer and the risk involved if homeowners move firewood or bark chips across state lines.