ACROSS NEW YORK STATE-The balance of nature is both critical and tenuous,and disturbing that equilibrium can result in ecological disaster. Invasive species throughout the world are doing just that and the evidence of calamity is visible almost everywhere. The Emerald Ash Borer is an insect that preys on Ash trees. Native to Asia, the initial infestation was discovered in Michigan and Canada in 2002, the deadly bug has destroyed almost 100 million trees in over 19 states since it's incursion, and a worst case scenario could see the tree wiped out in North America.
The adult is a beautiful glittering green, and does minimal damage to trees. It is in it's early life cycle that the insect does all of the damage.
Patrick Marren is a NY DEC Forester, and he's well acquainted with EAB." The Emerald Ash Borer does it's damage in the larval stage, which is that worm like stage, it feeds underneath the bark of the tree,feeding on that living tissue, cutting off the flow of nutrients in the tree."
Because the larva does it's work undercover, by the time they're discovered it's too late for the tree. Combine that with the fact that the Emerald Ash Borer has no natural predators in it's adopted environment, and you have a
perfect recipe for disaster.
The insect was first discovered in New York State, in Randolph, in 2009, and has continued to spread since then. There are several areas of infestation in WNY, which has a fairly large population of Ash trees, Marren says." Ash can comprise anywhere from 15-20 percent of the trees in the region and locally, and in certain forests you can might find up to 100 percent of the trees being Ash."
The economic repercussions of the infestation could be devastating. Ash is used in myriad ways, from lumber to medicine. Ash is used to make baseball bats and hockey sticks. But the biggest impact would be much more personal.
" We tend to find the economic impact from invasive insects like this to be at the homeowner, landowner level and also with the local municipality level, and the state and counties share some of that load too." Explains Marren." But it's also going to impact the wood products industry, which in NY is fairly substantial. "
The war on this invader has been in full swing for years, with no end in sight. Indeed, at this point the goal is not to eliminate the pest but to control the population,as eradication has proven impossible in other states.
Earlier this year, the state extended an earlier quarantine to include all of NY south of the Thruway. " The quarantine is going to restrict movement outside of the quarantine. Within quarantine, material can be moved as long as it's compliant with the terms of the State Dept. Of Agriculture and Markets."
Although the problem seems daunting there are things that can be done on an individual level to help minimize the Ash Borers impact. Landowners can learn to identify the signs of infestation. Small "D" shaped holes indicate the emergence of the adult insect, and are an obvious external sign of infestation. Woodpeckers are also a good indicator, as they love to feast on the larva and leave holes in the bark of the tree. Innoculation of healthy trees is also effective, but can be expensive.
Marren says that the importance of citizen education and vigilance cannot be understated." It certainly helps, the more people know about problems , to help us detect things early, but also to have people who might be interested in asking our local leaders,state leaders, federal leaders to work on the issue of invasive species. We're likely to see many more of these types of problems arise in the future, invasive pests have been coming through and will likely come through again."