Destructive Ash Borer Beetle Marches into Tennessee

One of the most destructive pests in North American history continues its heart-wrenching march across the continent.

Hard to believe that something so small could cause such havoc. But the one-third-inch-long emerald ash borer, a tiny beetle native to Asia, is threatening to kill most of the 7.5 billion ash trees in North America.

Recently, the borer was found in Oak Ridge, Tenn., insect traps — a sure sign that it’s moving into the southern tier states from the mid-Atlantic. It’s now been confirmed in 15 states and Canada.

The plague is reminiscent of the chestnut blight of the early 1900s and Dutch elm disease of the 1950s and 60s, which virtually wiped out some of America’s most iconic — and beloved — trees.

Unfortunately, researchers have been unable to come up with a way to stop the emerald ash borer. Although the bug doesn’t have much of a range on its own, it’s continually being spread by campers who unwittingly transport infested firewood into healthy forests.

What can you do? If you have ash trees, it may be difficult to avoid the heartbreak of losing a tree to the emerald ash borer. Experts advise planting companion trees that can take over if an ash tree in your yard succumbs.

The Tennessee Dept. of Agriculture has a website devoted to the emerald ash borer where you can learn about signs of infestation and steps you can take to avoid spreading the pest.

Do you have ash trees? If so, are you taking any proactive steps to replace them?