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Watch Out for Emerald Ash Borer

If you have trees on your property, you probably already know a little bit about pest control and the potential threats that trees can face in the Portland area. What pests, exactly, can threaten your tree depend a great deal on what type of tree you have and a number of other variables including surrounding plant life, climate, and others. One of the most threatening pests to invade the United States area has been the Emerald Ash Borer, the most damaging agricultural pest ever found in North America.

Watch Out for Emerald Ash BorerAsh trees across the world have been devastated by this invasive species, which continue to spread across the country at an alarming rate. At the rate it is spreading, it will soon be in the Portland area and is capable of doing a great deal of damage, even necessitating tree removal. This article will help you identify the Emerald Ash Borer and provide advice on what to do if you encounter this pest.

What is the Emerald Ash Borer?
The Emerald Ash Borer, Agrilus planipennis, is an insect. More specifically, it is a beetle originally native to northeastern Asia. Bright green in color, the adult insect has a metallic look to its wings and grows to about 8.5 millimeters in length. It appears similar to a number of other insects that populate the various states, and, as such, misidentifications are somewhat common.

Originally, this invasive species is from Asia, but it was first discovered in the United States in 2002 when it was confirmed to be in Michigan. Originally, it was probably introduced to this country hiding in wooden packing material brought from Asia. Over time, it has spread across the states, moving to Ohio, Illinois, Maryland, Virginia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, New York, Iowa, Minnesota, Connecticut, Kansas, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Georgia, Delaware, Oklahoma, Alabama, Nebraska, Arkansas, and Delaware. It has also spread into Ontario, Canada and continues to spread to other states as well. At the time of this writing, the Emerald Ash Borer has not yet been found in Portland or anywhere on the west coast, although that is expected to change soon.

What does the Emerald Ash Borer do?
Since its initial United States discovery in 2002, this pest is already responsible for killing hundreds of millions of ash trees in North America and causing billions of dollars worth of damage.

More than a nuisance, it is a devastating ecological problem for everyone from nursery operators to national parks and controlling it has proven to be a huge logistical challenge. In its native Asia, the Emerald Ash Borer is kept under control by natural predators and trees that have developed resistances to it. In the United States, however, there are no such protections.

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If no control measures are taken, the Ash Borer can easily kill the entire ash tree population in an area within a decade. The damage that this species causes is primarily a result of the larvae; while adult insects can also cause damage to a tree, the larvae will burrow through the tree, ultimately cutting off its ability to transport food and water and eventually starving the tree to death.

How do I find them?
As mentioned, there has yet to be a sign of the Emerald Ash Borer in on the West Coast. However, scientists estimate it is only a matter of time before this pest arrives in our area. Training yourself to keep an eye out for the signs of infestation may help you get a jump on this pest when it does move into our area.

You’ll want to look for the distinctive metallic green of the adult beetles. Signs a tree has been infested include a D-shaped hole in the bark that the beetles make when they emerge after their larval stage. The larvae have a tendency to attract woodpeckers. If you see an unusual amount of woodpecker activity on a tree, that can also be a sign it has become infested by Emerald Ash Borers.

Once a tree has become infested, the leaves will begin to thin as they lose access to water and nutrients. Eventually, the canopy of the tree will begin to die back from the top down. Over the course of a year, up to half of the branches in an infested tree can be lost. Emerald Ash Borers tend to prefer trees that are already stressed or dying, although healthy ash trees are by no means safe.

What do I do if I think I see one?
Eventually, the Emerald Ash Borer is expected to move to the West Coast and continue causing damage as it spreads. It is essential that an infestation is caught quickly; affected trees will need to be quarantined as the larvae can easily be spread through firewood, in packing material, and in other wooden items. 

If you do think you see signs of the Emerald Ash Borer in your area, you can call the USDA Emerald Ash Borer Hotline toll-free number, (866) 322-4512. You can also contact the nearest office for your Department of Agriculture to report any signs of an infestation. The quicker that authorities become aware of the Emerald Ash Borer, the more likely it is the infestation can be controlled.

How do I protect my trees?
There are a number of steps you can take to protect your trees from the eventual arrival of the Emerald Ash Borer. Look for insecticides that have been recommended for treating trees; if you are going to make use of insecticides, it should be while the tree is still somewhat healthy. If the tree is already heavily infested, an insecticide may not be able to be effectively transported through the branches to kill the insect larvae.

It’s also a good idea to have your trees periodically inspected by a reputable Portland tree service such as Mr. Tree; they can evaluate trees to ensure that they are healthy, and if necessary, tree removal can take place to prevent the spread of a pest infestation.