By Marshal Braman, Environmental Protection Specialist, 88th RSCSeptember 1, 2016
The U.S. Army Reserve is experiencing an invasion from a little, green alien species. No, they are not aliens from outer space and not escapees from Area 51. These aliens are terrorists that seek and destroy nature - in this case, trees. Specifically, they target one entire genus or type of tree: the ash tree. Originally from Asia, they are Agrilus planipennis, commonly known as Emerald Ash Borers.
Why care? Emerald Ash Borers are small, metallic green beetles that kill every variety of ash tree by boring under the tree bark and disrupting the flow of water and nutrients. Most likely, they came to the United States from Asia on wooden crates from cargo ships or planes. The first United States identification of the Emerald Ash Borer was in southeastern Michigan in 2002. They have been advancing across the United States ever since, and their presence has been confirmed in 27 states: Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin. The insects are already responsible for the destruction of millions of ash trees in these states.
Fort Snelling Army Reserve Center in Minnesota recently experienced the wrath of the Emerald Ash Borers when they killed all 19 ash trees at the facility. Other 88th Regional Support Command facilities have experienced significant losses, too. At Joliet Training Area south of Chicago, Illinois, about 7,500 trees have been killed by Emerald Ash Borers.
The loss of so many trees could have both environmental and financial impacts. Ecological services such as erosion prevention, water filtration and temperature regulation could decline. Sources of food, fuel and a myriad of consumer goods could diminish, and habitat for wildlife could disappear. Furthermore, the real estate values of infested sites could drop while pest management costs could rise, since annual treatment costs for every affected tree can easily exceed $100 every year. So, the implications of the Emerald Ash Borer's destructive presence are dire.
What can be done to stop these nuisances? Currently, there is no known practical remedy to halt their progress, and no North American ash species has proven to be immune. Biological treatments are now under investigation, and field trials have started.
PREVENTING THE SPREAD OF EMERALD ASH BORERS …
• Use locally sourced firewood, and burn it in the same county in which it was purchased. Firewood is a significant transportation mechanism for the Emerald Ash Borer. Don't move firewood. Beetle larvae can survive if they are hidden in the bark of firewood. Remember: buy local, burn local.
• Inspect your trees. If you see any sign or symptom of an infestation, contact your state agriculture agency.
• Chemically treat only high-value ash trees located within 15 miles of a known infestation. Declining trees should be considered for removal.
• Know state and Federal regulations. Make sure that you understand regulations that govern your state and those you may visit.
• Report suspected Emerald Ash Borer infestations to your state Department of Agriculture.
• Talk to friends, neighbors and colleagues about the Emerald Ash Borer and educate them about what they should be aware of on their trees.
• Ask questions. If you receive ash nursery stock or firewood, know its point of origin and your supplier, as Emerald Ash Borer larvae could be hiding under the bark.
• Know the quarantines in your area.
For more information about the 88th Regional Support Command's environmental programs, visit www.usar.army.mil/Commands/Support/88th-RSC/ or usarsustainability.com. Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/USARSustainability and follow us on Twitter @USARGoGreen.