The emerald ash borer (EAB) is spreading rapidly through Virginia and is now right next door. Information recently released by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services lists 8 more Virginia counties, including our neighbor, Hanover County, with confirmed cases of EAB.
This non-native insect arrived from Asia in wood products and has killed millions of ash trees in the midwestern states. In Virginia, EAB was first found in Fairfax County 2003 and seemed to be limited to northern Virginia for several years, but has recently been found in many more Virginia counties in various parts of the state. A statewide quarantine is now in effect.
Approximately 3% of trees on public property in the city of Richmond are green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica). While that may not seem a significant number, the loss of those trees (and trees on private property) would further reduce the already limited diversity of our urban forest. With approximately 187 million native ash trees in the state of Virginia, this pest will have significant economic and environmental impact. Many insects, arthropods, birds and mammals depend on ash trees for food and shelter. And, when dead trees leave voids in wooded areas, non-native, invasive plant species often seize the opportunity to claim that space. Forest ecosystems and biodiversity will suffer.
What can you do?
1. Humans are responsible for spreading this destructive insect (and others) by transporting wood products. The state wide quarantine does not restrict the transport of ash wood within the state, but there is the potential to spread other pests or diseases when moving firewood or other products.
2. Can you identify ash trees? Do you know signs of EAB damage?
3. If you suspect EAB damage, report this to your local extension office or call Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at 804-786-3515.
The beautiful tiger swallowtail butterfly is just one of the insects that uses ash trees to feed its young.