Don't move firewood,
it bugs me."
Have you seen a sign in Cleveland Metroparks or elsewhere in Northeast Ohio saying this? These signs are thanks to an attractive metallic green beetle called the emerald ash borer or EAB, a non-native beetle that kills ash trees. Areas infested with EAB are placed under quarantine. Fines and penalties are enforced to stop the spread of EAB to new areas. Transporting firewood is one way to accidentally transport this destructive insect.
About the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB)
Native to northeastern Asia, EAB was first discovered near Detroit, Michigan in 2002, although evidence suggests that EAB was probably introduced about 15 years ago. It has already killed millions of ash trees and is spreading rapidly. The natural spread of the insects is slow. It is estimated that the natural dispersal is between five and 20 miles per year, depending on the size of the infestation.
In Ohio there are five native species of ash tees: white, green, blue, black and pumpkin. The emerald ash borer is not specific to a particular ash species. The adults feed on ash leaves but the real problem is the larvae. They feed on the phloem layer of ash trees, which disrupts the flow of sugar and other nutrients and will eventually kill the trees.
How Emerald Ash Borers Are Spread
Unfortunately, EAB has spread like wildfire with the help of unsuspecting people transporting firewood and other ash products, including nursery trees. New infestations tend to follow main roadways and spreads from there. One example is in Broadview Heights, where they were found behind the Ohio Turnpike service plaza. As the beetles move to new areas they decimate ash tree populations.
Signs of an Emerald Ash Borer Infestation
Once EAB infests an area, the trees show signs of distress within a year. One early sign of EAB is the presence of woodpeckers feeding on the upper limbs and branches of ash trees. Woodpeckers are a predator of EAB. Other signs of infestation include the thinning of the tree canopy, yellowing of branches, shoots sprouting from the trunk, bark splitting, and the presence of D-shaped exit holes in the bark from where the adults emerge. Within five years, the trees typically die.
Impacts of the Emerald Ash Borer in Ohio
Ashes are one of the most common trees in Ohio and one of the primary commercial hardwoods in North America. The spread of this insect threatens the landscaping, wood manufacturing, nursery, and firewood industries, as well as the health of our forests. Ash trees provide food and shelter for many wildlife species. Dead ash trees leave gaps in the forest canopy. These gaps allow more light to reach the forest floor and are often taken over by other non-native plant species including honeysuckle, multiflora rose and garlic mustard. The effect of EAB on our forests could be devastating.
Please do not take ash wood or material out of quarantined areas. Paying a few dollars for some firewood at a campground is a small price to pay to protect this natural resource.
For more information call 1-888-OHIO-EAB or visit www.emeraldashborer.info.
—Kelly McGinnis, Naturalist, Brecksville Nature Center