The iridescent emerald insect seems harmless, almost beautiful, but looks can be deceiving. These creatures are wreaking havoc across the United States and in our very own community. Emerald Ash Borers are native to China, where they burrow into trees to lay their eggs. The larvae hatch inside the tree, then burrow into the center of the tree, which contains a particular fiber used by the tree to transport nutrients. The larvae feed upon this fibre, and after several weeks, they exit through D-shaped holes. A singular larva has little effect upon the tree, but as more eggs hatch and more insects tunnel through the tree and steal the nutrients from the tree, the tree begins to die.
In China, where Emerald Ash Borers are native, trees have built up a resistance to the insect. As a result, trees are less likely to die from an infestation. In addition, natural predators help control the population of the insect. However, trees native to North America have no defense against the insect intruders. With no natural predators, the population of Emerald Ash Borers in the United States has exploded.
As the larvae cut off nutrients, the canopy begins to thin and wilt. The tree loses its branches and slowly dies. Tens of millions of American Ash Trees have suffered this fate. In forests in Michigan, where the population first exploded, forests affected by the insect have experienced a 99% mortality rate. This translates to tens of millions of dead trees and destroyed forests. The Emerald Ash Borer has become the most destructive insect ever to invade American forests.
This issue is present all over America. The Emerald Ash Borer has been officially discovered in 18 states, including Iowa. This issue impacts not only our state but our community as well. Ash trees in our community have been disappearing to help stop the influence of this invasive insect.
“The trees out front of the High School were removed to the Ash Borer issue in the community. It’s unfortunate we lost those trees, but [we] had to do it for the city effort to control the ash borer issue,” said vice principal Eric Nelson.
However, there is hope for the trees in our community. Middle schooler Gavin Hildebrand received a $4,000 grant from the DNR to replace the cut down trees around the middle school as part of a service project. These new trees will be planted on April 17, replacing those that had to be cut down.
“This is important to me because I can help with the environment and our school at the same time, and that for me is a win-win situation,” said Hildebrand.
It would seem that from the ashes, or in this case the ash borers, new life emerges.