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The Emerald Ash Borer is 'Winning' Along East Coast

Nov 18, 2014 11:37 AM EST
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Even as winter closes in, the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) continues to be a threatening nuisance to states across the East Coast, destroying ash trees and jacking up the price of firewood just before we need it. Now it has spread to new states and Canada, sparking renewed efforts to keep it contained.

As of late last week, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) confirmed the concentrated presence of EAB in the Municipality of Notre-Dame-de-Laus, Quebec. Disturbingly, this discovery is well outside regulated boundaries, marking Canada's first case of the invasive insects breaking through pre-established quarantines.

And while the EAB is relatively new to North America, first showing up in 2002, the United States and the Canadian regions of Ontario and Quebec have already been deeply affected by the harmful eastern Asian beetle.

A whopping 23 states, largely in the eastern US along the East Coast, are currently being affected by the tiny green beetle. And while the adult EAB itself is not a huge problem, its larvae feed just below an ash tree's bark, interfering with the plant's water and nutrient uptake and causing it to die. (Scroll to read on...)

(Photo : USDA) click to expand

Because the EAB has little-to-no natural predators in North America, it's free to reproduce en masse, posing a serious threat to the ash tree industry.

The spread of this pest is also proving particularly difficult to contain. At the start of this month, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced that the borer was spreading further into the state, invading two new counties.

Then just last week, Massachusetts's Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) announced that the EAB was still spreading within its borders, and promptly announced a state-wide quarantine. Much like a quarantine that New York launched several weeks ago, this restriction limits the movement of certain wood products (primarily firewood) outside of regulated areas.

"The Emerald Ash Borer poses a very serious threat to ash trees across the Commonwealth," said DCR Commissioner Jack Murray. "We believe a state-wide quarantine provides the best chance for slowing the spread of Emerald Ash Borer."

However, for states that have already seen what the EAB can do, a firewood quarantine just doesn't seem enough.

In Connecticut, local news stations are reporting that "it looks like the Emerald Ash Borer has won."

That's because starting Friday, Dec. 5, restrictions on moving firewood within the state are being rescinded for anyone with the right paperwork, where quarantine boarders are being expanded to all of the state's eight counties.

"The reason why we are expanding the quarantine is simply because we've found that eradication of this insect is not possible," Deputy State Entomologist Victoria Smith told WNPR News.

This expansion is adding Connecticut to a larger quarantine zone that extends all the way to Iowa and Missouri. However, interstate firewood transport remains restricted. (Scroll to read on...)

(Photo : pixabay)

And while this may be some pretty bad news for ash tree owners and farmers, lightening restrictions could be a silver lining for homeowners this winter.

That's because quarantine conditions have been limiting the availability of purchasable firewood. In New York, for instance, retailers are limited to moving firewood up to only 50 miles from its source. That's a problem for some retailers, who normally travel far longer distances to pick up treated logs from areas like the Adirondacks or even just along the Pennsylvanian boarder.

"Some of the sources that may have been farther away have dried up because they just can't transport it," said Joyce Meiler, office manager for Craft Tree and Land Clearing, told New York's Democrat & Chronicle.

Looking for quality logs then becomes a very expensive hassle, in which demand heavily outweighs supply. A face cord alone - one third of a full stack of wood - can cost about $95 this holiday season. That's nearly $10 more than last year.

Still, it might be a small price to pay to at least slow the spread of a harmful new pest.

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