Emerald Ash Borer


Perhaps like you, I am patiently waiting for spring and the leafing out of our native trees. But there is a down side. The emerald ash borer will likely get a little closer to North Dakota. This insect is devastating to green ash. The emerald ash borer is not native to the United States, and like many exotic pests, our natives are very susceptible because they have not had time to evolve resistance. The emerald ash borer was first found in the United States in Michigan in 2002 and has been spreading since. It has now been documented as close as the Twin Cities.

The emerald ash borer can kill a green ash in as little as three years, and it is just a matter of time before it starts laying bare the ash trees in our state. I have not seen the statistics on the mortality rate, but it appears to be comparable to that of Dutch elm disease.

Green ash is perhaps the most abundant and widely distributed tree in North Dakota. It can be found from the banks of the Red River to the woody ash draws in the badlands. Because it does so well in our region it also a preferred species for boulevards, yards, farmsteads and shelterbelts, particularly after Dutch elm disease devastated our elms. But that will all change unless someone can quickly discover a cheap and effective method to stop this insect.

The effect on our native woodlands will be profound. Devastating is probably a more appropriate description. Just look around the wooded areas of the state: green ash is everywhere. However, not all green ash will die, and as with so many ecological changes, some species will actually benefit. Some insects for example will go to work on the dead trees and provide more food for woodpeckers and the like. Eventually cavities will form in the trees, providing nesting sites for our cavity nesting birds. Although much will be lost, all will not be lost.

If you have some green ash in your yard or farmstead, now might be a good time to consider planting something to replace them. Especially when you consider how long it takes to grow a good shade tree. But when you choose which species to plant, select a species that is not so abundant in your area, and if you need to plant several trees, please do not plant all the same species.

Chuck Lura

Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Minot State University-Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.

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