Winter is a season to sit indoors, sip a hot drink, and enjoy the view from your front window. It is also a time when many homeowners enjoy a break from the garden and lawn care. The lawn doesn’t need mowing, weeds aren’t growing out of control, and insects like the dreaded emerald ash borer have succumbed to the elements at last—or have they? Although populations of many pests are indeed set back by a hard freeze, the truth is that this destructive beetle is only biding its time. Even though you may not see it at work during the winter, rest assured it will wake up hungry after the first thaw.
The Emerald Ash Borer Is Accustomed to Northern Climates
The emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis as it is known to scientists) hails from the snowy north of China and Russia, where it is well accustomed to temperatures that regularly dip below zero degrees Celsius. In its native home, Asian wasps keep populations in check by laying eggs inside the beetle’s larvae. In Canada, where no such predators exist, the ash borer has destroyed countless ash trees due to its habit of drilling into their bark. This infestation, which began in the early 2000s, has created a mass die-off of this beautiful hardwood tree.
Cold Blooded Creatures Stay Cozy Under a Blanket of Snow
Snow may feel cold to the touch, but it is in fact an excellent insulator. Although this concept at first may seem counterintuitive, it makes sense when you consider snow’s structure. Each snowflake originally forms as an intricate crystal lattice that is then bound to neighbouring flakes as it falls. As snow piles up, air is trapped within and between the flakes, creating insulating layers much like strips of fiberglass in an attic. Studies have shown that snow is able to insulate at least as well as wood and somewhat less than synthetic insulators. This property of snow is the reason igloos make cozy homes for people, and also why insects can maintain a body temperature warmer than the surrounding frigid air.
Only the Strong Survive
It is true that extremely frigid temperatures diminish insect populations, even among species generally accustomed to cold weather. However, nature makes a way for species to survive through genetic adaptation. This mechanism causes a few random individuals to be born with superior genes, allowing them to survive when others perish. Therefore, even if the majority of insects die over the course of a very cold winter, not every individual will perish. The few that survive then pass on their unique ability to their offspring, causing the species as a whole to grow stronger over time. Experts have reported evidence of this process occurring in emerald ash borers in the northern United States, resulting in a gradually increasing ability to survive the winter and thus a stronger resurgence each subsequent spring.
Invasive Insects Require Professional Help
If you have seen or suspect emerald ash borers in your neighbourhood, it is imperative that you call a professional. As with communicable diseases, insect infestations can spread through the air from tree to tree and from forest to forest. This particular pest must be killed by applying a specialized substance directly to the innermost part of an infected tree, a type of treatment that only a professional arborist should administer.
Martin’s Tree Service is leading the battle against the emerald ash borer and is happy to assess your trees free of charge. Don’t become complacent about your property during the winter months. Instead, spend your time indoors checking things off your to-do list, such as giving your ash trees the attention they need. Come spring, you will be glad you did.