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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Trying to Control a Bug that Kills Trees

Two ARS scientists made an important discovery while driving through upstate New York a few years ago. They found ash trees with withered limbs and leaves. The trees had been infested with emerald ash borer beetles.

The emerald ash borers are shiny green insects that have killed millions of ash trees since they slipped into the United States from Asia about 10 years ago. The discovery by John Vandenberg and Michael Griggs, scientists at the ARS Robert W. Holley Agricultural Center in Ithaca, N.Y., was the first time they were spotted in the state of New York.

After the discovery, crews began removing bark from some trees in areas where the beetles were found to expose the wood and attract the beetles to those trees.

That way, they would leave the other trees alone. The infested trees were then removed in the winter and spring to prevent a new crop of beetles from emerging and dispersing.

Vandenberg is trying to figure out if a fungus can be used to keep the beetles from spreading. Other ARS scientists are releasing tiny wasps brought in from Asia that attack and kill the beetles (don’t worry, these wasps don't sting!). Traps baited with the beetle's own chemical signals also are being developed.

People can accidentally spread beetles when they move infested firewood. In many areas, selling or shipping firewood or lumber made with ash trees is prohibited. Have you seen emerald ash borers in your neighborhood?

Dennis O'Brien, Agricultural Research Service, Information Staff

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Last Modified: 8/12/2016
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