The emerald ash borer is terrorizing Wisconsin’s Devil’s Lake State Park, as it is killing every ash tree on the premises.
The small critter is a vicious tree parasite that causes extensive damage to any ash tree population it encounters. The adult ash bores feed on its leaves and then lay their eggs on the tree bark, in any small hole or crevasse that they find. Then, a small larva emerges from the egg and makes its way in the space between the tree bark and the wood of the ash tree and begins to feed from the tree’s nutrient sources. As it feeds on, it leaves a spiral trace on the wood, that damages the tree’s nutrient vessels, leaving it severely malnourished.
This happens because there usually are quite a lot of larvae that are living inside one tree, and the overall effect is that the tree does not have enough nutrients to sustain itself and begins to waste away. In a few years’ time, the tree dies and the small insects simply move on to another tree to terrorize.
The emerald ash borer is quite small in size and therefore it is extremely easy to miss. Furthermore, since the larvae hide out between the tree bark and the wood, transporting wood from a contaminated area to a naive one eventually leads to extensive contamination. This is why approximately half of Wisconsin has already been contaminated, and given the rate of the ash borer’s spreading success, it will most likely reach the entire state by the end of the decade.
And Wisconsin is not the only American state that is fighting off the wrath of the small insect. At the moment, there are 25 states that have been included in a quarantine area, aimed to decrease its spread rate. However, the ash borer seems to be extremely efficient in outsmarting the officials, because it is still spreading at an alarming rate nationwide. And the damage it leaves behind is enormous.
For instance, Devil’s Lake State Park officials were obligated to cut down trees that were 237 years old, so as to limit the spread of the parasite. It is of the utmost importance that drastic measure are applied, because the parasite can kill the entire amount of ash trees if allowed to spread at will. So far, the authorities had to cut down thousands of ash trees from various state parks, in order to save at least some of them.
“There were locations where we kind of lost the battle before we knew it was raging,” pointed out Kimberly Currie, deputy state parks director.
The emerald ash borer was first identified on US grounds in 2002 and the authorities believe that it has reached America through a wood transport from Asia, where the parasite has been living for millions of years. Moreover, the Asian ash trees have developed natural defense mechanisms to keep the parasite at bay, but the process is believed to have taken millions of years. The American ash trees on the other hand, are completely defenseless and this is the main reason why parasite is so successful.
At the moment, the US authorities are employing all the methods available, that range from highly potent pesticides, to specialized traps and to biological methods, such as wasps that could eliminate the small insects. But so far, the emerald ash borer seems to be able to survive each and every one of them and is essentially going rampant all throughout the US.
It is crucial that awareness campaigns are developed, so that people can recognize the vicious parasite and the the damage it is capable of causing, because one of the most important means of transmission that allow the parasite to spread is through small firewood transports that are made by people who are unaware of the immense damage they are causing.
It remains to be seen what measures the authorities will see fit to employ further, so that this vicious tree killer can be stopped before it eats away any more of America’s ash trees.
Image Source: aconservationtrust