Since 2002, there has been a devastating attack on our native trees. While it started slowly in North America at first, the issue has made its way to western Pennsylvania with shocking results. Ash trees are pretty common in our area, but lately, they have been dying, rotting from the inside out.

These trees can be found pretty much anywhere, from our backyard to the vocational forest trails in state parks. One invasive insect, the emerald ash borer, holds the key to all this destruction. So, what about this insect causes of all this sudden ash tree death and how can it affect you? 

emerald ash borer is an invasive insect

What is an Emerald Ash Borer?

Sitting at about a half-inch long, the metallic green beetle isn’t much to turn heads. The emerald ash borer is an invasive insect that appeared around 2002 in North America. Now, it’s found in every county of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. While the bug itself isn’t harmful directly to humans or animals, it can do quite a bit of damage to the ecosystem simply by laying their eggs. In fact, their larvae are the main reason our ash trees are in danger.

What harm can the Emerald Ash Borer do?

As their name suggests, this invasive insect exclusively feeds on ash trees. They lay their larvae under the bark, and the tiny insects feed beneath the surface. This process kills most trees within three to five years after infestation. While this may not seem like a much of a problem since ash trees are so common, the emerald ash borer aims for this type of tree exclusively. In fact, they aim to kill up to 308 million ash trees across the state.

In addition to the larvae chewing away at the ash trees from the inside, the adults make a meal out of the leaves. After the larva has had their fill and mature, they emerge in the spring. The size of the tree does not matter. While ash trees tend to be larger and live long lives, these insects cut that lifespan down to size. Unfortunately, ash trees provide a habitat and food for other local bird species, mammal, and other insects.  Of course, if you have ash trees in your backyard, these insects can possibly invade it, making the dying tree a dangerous issue for your home and family.

Signs of an Emerald Ash Borer infestation

If you have ash trees on your property or spot any while on a walk around your neighborhood, there are a few things to keep an eye out for. The following signs may appear if a tree is infested with emerald ash borers.

  • Upper crown dieback
  • Epicormic branching
  • The bark is beginning to split or flake
  • Trees have become a draw to woodpeckers
  • D-shaped adult beetle exit holes
  • S-shaped holes beneath the bark

If you notice any of these signs, you may have to take steps to protect your home and property. In fact, there are few things you can do to stop this pest from spreading to other trees and causing more devastation. 

ash trees have been dying and rotting from the inside out

How can you help stop the spread?

If you haven’t spotted any issues in your trees, don’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet. It may only be a matter of time. If your trees are pest-free, you can treat them. However, the only effective treatment can be applied by certified pest control experts. There are several different options from topical to internal, but you should only treat healthy ash trees. From there, you can keep an eye on any trees you have on or near your property and look for signs of infestation. Take extra care when trimming and caring for your trees. 

If you can’t afford to have your trees treated, make sure to perform frequent maintenance on them. Cut any loose limbs, branches, and keep an eye on the trunk for any possible flaking or cracking. If you do have any infested trees, you should remove the tree as soon as possible. Also, if you want to help keep ash trees alive, you can do your part by planting more. As experts rush to battle this invasive species, hopefully, the ash tree will make a comeback in the years to come. 

Concluding Thoughts

If you have noticed a recent die-off in ash trees in your area, you aren’t alone. We must do our part to stop the emerald ash borer and revive the ash tree population. With combined efforts, the best way we can help these trees is by keeping an eye on trees in our area and treating the healthy ones we have left. If you suspect you may have infected trees or want to protect the trees you have, don’t hesitate to contact a pest control expert.



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