The Curious Case of the Ash Tree

By: NohJun Park

Spring is just around the corner. The gloomy looking trees will start to put on their green coats again — while we shed our winter coats. But there’s an alarming problem for one species of trees — and that’s the ash tree.

In 2002, an exotic type of beetle was found in Detroit. The emerald ash borer beetle feasts on the foliage of ash trees — which isn’t the problem. It’s that it lays its larvae on the trees.

emerald ash borer larvae
Larvae of emerald ash borer beetle.

“Our trees are just not suited to deal with this particular insect. And whenever there’s an infestation, the tree is essentially killed,” says Richard Harper, the extension assistant professor at UMass Amherst.

UMass Extension Agriculture and Landscape teamed up with the Massachusetts Agricultural of Resource to track down these beetles. Eight towns in the Berkshire County have already detected some of them since 2012.

emerald ash borer
“We’re talking about an insect that wipes the tree out.”

“We’re talking about an insect that wipes the tree out,” Harper says. “When you lose a tree species, it’s essentially lost or degraded in terms of its presence in the environment in a very drastic manner.”

A way to stop invasive species is to literally fight back. According to the USDA, millions of tiny parasitic wasps have been released to counter to borer. The wasps lay eggs inside of the larvae of the borer to prevent them from hatching on the ash trees. You can report findings of borer beetles at massnrc.org.

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