Bumper stickers on cars around the state are asking us to not move firewood, but do you know why? It's all because of a metallic green insect known as the emerald ash borer. This itty bitty thing is causing some great big problems when it comes to our ash trees.
What are Emerald Ash Borers?
Emerald ash borers, or EABs, are invasive insects practically running amok in our state. These tiny, bright green beetles are native to Asia, and are believed to have made their way to the States via solid wood packing material used in cargo shipments. They were originally found in southern Michigan in 2002. By April 2004, EABs were in Indiana and since then has spread to 18 central and northern counties.
Though only one sixteenth of an inch wide and one third of an inch long, emerald ash borers can cause some major damage to their food of choice - ash trees. Their life cycle begins around Mid-May to Mid-August, when adults lay eggs in ash bark and where the eggs will eventually hatch. The inch-long, cream-colored and segmented larvae will then tunnel their way into the tree. Between August and October, the larvae will feed under the bark, creating S-shaped grooves along the way. The immature EABs will then winter under the bark until May-June when they reemerge as adults, leaving D-shaped exit holes. Since these beetles cannot fly more than a half mile from where they emerge, emerald ash borers can take out the ashes of an entire urban neighborhood within a few years if not managed.
What to do about an EAB Infestation
The symptoms of an ash tree being attacked by the emerald ash borer are visually obvious. The canopy of infested trees will thin while heavily infested trees will exhibit dieback from top to bottom. Vertical splits and d-shaped exit holes can be found on the bark, especially when the adult beetles emerge in June. S-shaped channels can be found underneath the bark, evidence that the larvae have found a home in the tree's tissue. A combination of these symptoms may very well mean the ash tree is infested.
Indiana is very much concerned about the emerald ash borer further spreading across our state. If you are currently dealing with an EAB infestation, please contact the Department of Natural Resources at (317) 232-4120. Or check out Purdue University's Extension site for ways to manage the infestation depending on whether you are a homeowner or professional. Purdue is also determined to find all EAB infestations in Indiana with the help of their bright purple boxes. If you see one hanging around, please let it be.
Why We Should Care and What Can We Do?
The emerald ash borer is changing the face of our landscape. According to DNR, ash trees make up 6% of our forests - that's almost 150 million ash trees across the state. Without the necessary precautions, we could lose them all. Now, you may be wondering - why should I care? Ash trees not only offer us beauty and shade in our forests, but is a valuable wood best known for its use in America's favorite past time - baseball. White ash has been the wood of choice for Louisville Sluggers for decades. While the Pennsylvania/New York stands where they harvest their trees are not yet in danger, the EAB is still a serious concern. Not to mention the nation-wide economic loss of between $20 - 60 billion dollars if we were to lose our ash trees to this tiny, invasive pest.
There is something we can do, something quite simple. DON'T MOVE FIREWOOD! Camping is a favorite summer ritual for millions of people. While the beetle cannot fly more than a 1/2 mile, it can be easily moved around. A piece of ash firewood infested with beetle larvae can be transported hundreds of miles away by any unsuspecting camper. The result - a new infestation that can impact a new community. So remember - buy it where you burn it!
This isn't just for ash wood either; all hardwood firewood is restricted from being moved from one location to another. As a USDA quarantined state, no firewood is allowed to cross county or state lines. Spread the message around, and we may be able to control the spreading of the emerald ash borer.