Emerald ash borer is on the move

Samples of bark from trees that are known to be infected by EAB in Missouri sit in a cooler. According to Dr. Rice, 30-70% of trees in forests throughout the U.S. are ash trees. EAB pose a major threat to these forests because of the large population of ash trees.
Kit Wiberg

If you live in Missouri, you have undoubtedly heard of the emerald ash borer (EAB), an insect that kills ash trees.   

For years, we were warned about bringing in firewood from elsewhere because that helped spread this little green monster even further into the Ozarks and beyond.   

But as of January of this year, the USDA issued final regulations dropping this quarantine (at least at the federal level).

I was curious as to why the USDA did this, so I decided to research it further. Apparently, it was felt that the quarantine on firewood was generally unsuccessful in stopping the spread of EAB and they needed to direct resources to other ways of controlling EAB, including the development of a biological control agent, but more about that in a minute.  

Actually, the EAB infestation is a pretty big deal and because it impacts all of us who enjoy the outdoors and the Ozarks in particular, I thought I ought to do a column on it.

So, let’s start at the beginning. The EAB is a beetle of the “Agrilus Planipennis” family, a rather curious name for an invasive species, don’t you think?

It was first discovered in the US in 2002 near Detroit, Michigan. It arrived here from Asia embedded in wooded shipping crates.

And it did not take this little bug long to spread across the Midwest. If you compare infestation maps for Missouri, in 2008, EAB had been found in certain counties in the Missouri Ozarks but not in the rest of the state.   

Now it exists in more than 78 Missouri counties. The rapid spread of EAB is frankly astonishing. Experts predict that by 2025, all ash trees in Missouri will be dead because of the EAB.

One form of a trap for EAB sit on a table. The white portion of the trap holds anti-freeze, which kills the EAB. The green portion hangs from ash trees and expands into multiple funnels, which captures the EAB and causes them to descend into the anti-freeze.
Kit Wiberg

So what does this beast look like and how do we know if our favorite tree is infected? The adult EAB is about an inch long and to my way of thinking, looks like a bright green bullet.

Once these beetles become adults, they are generally evident during the day between May and the end of July.

Beneath the green wings, there is a reddish body. But it is the highly destructive larvae of this beetle that you ordinarily can’t see because he is inside the bark of the ash tree, feasting on the inside of the bark and thereby cutting off nutrients and water that routinely flow from the roots of the tree to the leaves.

This is what eventually kills the tree. It normally takes about two years for an infected tree to die.
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One telltale sign of an infected tree is the absence of foliage in the upper branches of the tree. 

Another sign is a hole in the bark of the tree that is shaped like a capital letter “D” somewhere on the trunk of the tree. (This is the escape hole, once the larvae turn into adults.)  

A third sign is the affect of woodpeckers pecking on the bark to get at the EAB larvae inside the bark. 

And finally, if the bark is removed, you can see “worm trails” in the wood just beneath the bark.

Treatment for infected trees has not been very successful overall. One method is to use a systemic insecticide but this must be done for a number of years in order to be successful and, unless you have a healthy tree to start with, the tree may eventually die anyway.

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