The emerald ash borer (EAB) is an invasive beetle that likely arrived in the United States and Canada via wood shipping crates from north-eastern Asia. Though it was first discovered in Michigan, this destructive species has spread throughout the U.S., Ontario and Quebec, wreaking havoc on ash trees and the surrounding ecosystem. Since the ash tree is found in a variety of landscapes, from forests to residential yards, emerald ash borer damage is seen in both woodland and urban environments.
Impacts of the Ash Borer on Trees
Once the EAB invades an ash tree, the tree has no defences to survive the onslaught. At first, the visible damage occurs in the canopy, as the adult beetles feast on them. The loss of leaves is more than just an eyesore, as it is the leaves that allow trees to consume vital nutrients from the sun. However, the most detrimental damage occurs in the tree’s trunk.
The EAB lays its eggs within the bark of the ash tree. As the larvae emerge from the eggs, they begin to eat the tissue under the bark of the tree. This tissue is vital to tree survival because it is responsible for transporting water and nutrients throughout the tree. Since beetles are insects, their reproductive cycles are short, and females can lay up to 100 eggs each cycle. Therefore, it doesn’t take long for the larvae to disrupt the system enough to kill the tree.
Impacts of the Ash Borer on the Ecosystem
Killing the ash trees is just one aspect of emerald ash borer damage. The loss of the trees has a cascading effect on the rest of the ecosystem. A dead ash tree has no leaves, which creates holes in the canopy, even if the tree itself remains standing. The holes left behind allow sunlight to reach the forest floor and any vegetation found there. It is possible that plant species native to the forest will fill in the gaps. Tree seedlings from the ash or other existing species on the forest floor may now have the nutrients they need to grow to mature heights.
However, it is also quite likely that the extra light will feed any invasive species that have been waiting for their opportunity to thrive. Additionally, any plants or animals that depend on the ash tree for protection or food are impacted by the loss of the mature ash trees. Finally, the loss of ash trees can impact the makeup of the soil, which can have a detrimental impact on the microorganisms found within it.
Measures To Stop the Spread
Ash trees are important to our ecosystems in many ways so taking steps to curb the spread of the EAB is vitally important. Ash trees provide value to nature and humans alike. The leaves and seeds provide food for animals. They are also important in the lifecycle of moth caterpillars and butterflies. The trees are also used for manufacturing numerous products, from tool handles to baseball bats, because the wood is both elastic and strong.
Trees that have not yet been infested can be chemically treated annually to prevent the beetle from making the tree it’s home. However, this can be difficult and expensive to maintain on a large scale. The beetles can spread rapidly when people move wood from the trees from one location to another, providing them with a new opportunity to establish themselves in a beetle-free environment. Therefore, one of the best ways to prevent the spread of the EAB is to not move wood from this tree to a new location, even if the tree is already dead.
Martin’s Tree Service
Martin’s Tree Service experts understand the complexities involved with keeping your trees healthy. We offer a range of services from pruning to tree removal. Contact us today to request a consultation or to schedule services.