Seems odd to put National Invasive Species Awareness Week smack in the middle of winter—whose idea was that anyway? This year it’s February 22-28. Wouldn’t it be better to move it to summer when more invasive nasties are around? Of course, summer’s a busy time, and maybe all the good time slots were reserved for Hamster Appreciation Week, National Lawn Edging Week and the like.
One of the invasive species that deserves our attention is the emerald ash borer (EAB). Having eaten its way through the Great Lakes states and portions of the upper Midwest, the EAB is on a fast track to northern NY State. Since its discovery in 2002, the emerald ash borer has stripped cities and villages of all ash trees. Dorothy wouldn’t recognize one of these “emerald cities.” Treeless neighborhoods in places like Fort Wayne, IN, or Dayton, OH are a far cry from the emerald city of Oz.
The EAB is a very small (3/8” to ½”) bullet-shaped beetle that would be easy to overlook if not for its bright, metallic, emerald-green “paint job” with copper highlights. The beetles themselves do little harm, but their immature stage (larvae) feed on cambium tissue of ash trees, girdling and thus killing them. Aside from the relatively few ash that will be treated with insecticides through the estimated15-year duration of an EAB infestation, NYS will lose its 900 million ash trees.
With EAB closing in from the west, south and north, there’s no way to keep it from reaching northern NY. In fact, given that it’s been found in southern Ontario just across the St. Lawrence River, its arrival will be sooner rather than later. They’re quite capable of flying over the river and into our woods, and you can bet they won’t check in with the Border Patrol.
To prepare for the inevitable appearance of this insect, communities need to find how many ash trees they have in order to calculate and plan for removal costs. An ash tree survey would also identify the ash trees of good health and form to preserve. While a few towns have tree inventories, most don’t, and some of those may welcome volunteer help to survey ash trees.
While many signs of EAB damage manifest during summer, there are a couple of things to look for in winter time. Extensive but shallow woodpecker feeding in late winter, especially on the south and west sides of the trunk, may indicate an EAB infestation. Report all suspected cases of EAB activity to the NYSDEC or your Extension office.
Early planning and community involvement are the keys to weathering the EAB storm with as many surviving ash as possible and without breaking the bank. The first step is to become educated about EAB.
Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County is offering an Invasive Species First Detector training in Canton February 26 from 12:00-4:30. The training is free and open to the public and will cover emerald ash borer as well as hemlock woolly adelgid and Asian longhorn beetle. To register or get more information call (315) 379-9192 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
“The same program will be offered at the Watertown CCE office the following morning, Friday February 27. To register or for more information in Jefferson County, call (315) 788-8450.”
Paul Hetzler is a horticulture and natural resources educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County