The Ash tree species have long been an important part of the forests in Mississippi.  While Ash only makes up a small percentage of the forest trees in Mississippi, it is a valuable hardwood species that is used as a landscape tree and in the manufacture of various forest products.  The wood is tough, strong, and shock resistant.  Ash trees are used to manufacture baseball bats, tool handles, cabinets, and railroad crossties.

Ash trees in Mississippi are in serious danger.  The emerald ash borer (EAB) threatens to kill ash trees throughout our state.  This article will give a description, as well as discuss detection and control of the EAB.  The following information is based on the Mississippi State University Extension publication 3107, White Fringe Tree and the Emerald Ash Borer, andpublication 2896 Signs and Symptoms of the Emerald Ash Borer.

EAB Description

The EAB is a beetle that is native to Asia.  It was first introduced in infested shipping pallets in Michigan in the mid-1990’s.  Since then, the EAB has killed millions of ash trees and done billions of dollars of damage.  The EAB has also recently been detected in white fringe trees which are also native to Mississippi.  

EAB has currently been reported in 35 states.  While it has not yet been detected in Mississippi, we are surrounded.  EAB has been reported in Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Alabama.  It is likely only a matter of time before the first case is reported in Mississippi.

EAB is spread through the movement of green lumber, ash firewood, and landscape trees.  The EAB larvae feed on the cambium layer inside the tree’s bark.  This cuts off the transport of water and nutrients through the tree.  

EAB adults are metallic green and one-half inch long and less than an eighth of an inch wide.  The abdomen under the wings is bright purple.  

Detection

EAB infested trees are often hard to detect. The top one-third of the tree will die, sprouts will begin to grow from the trunk and roots.  Since they start feeding in the tops of trees, it often takes two years before a tree shows signs of damage.  Infested trees can be identified by D-shaped exit holes.  When the exit holes can be identified in the lower portion of the tree, it’s too late to save the tree.  Woodpecker activity will increase as they feed on the larvae as well. 

Control

Early detection is vital in protecting ash trees.  Treatment on ash trees in your lawn or community should begin when the emerald ash borer has been reported within 25 miles. 

Control of the EAB is expensive, often costing $100 per tree.  The expense limits treatment to landscape trees.  Injecting imidacloprid into the trees by tree care professionals has proven to be the best method of preventing EAB.  Treatments usually are effective for three years. Reapplication will then be necessary.  It should be noted that insecticide treatments are only a preventative measure.

Cost of treating for the EAB can be prohibitive and cutting infested trees is often the best option for control.  Ash trees and white fringe trees should not be planted in the future.

The emerald ash borer potentially will devastate ash and white fringe trees in Mississippi.  If you suspect EAB damage, contact the Mississippi Forestry Commission or the Mississippi State University Extension Service for assistance.

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