As best it can be figured it began happening quietly and slowly around 15 years ago. An insect called the emerald ash borer arrived from its native China in wood used to make crates. This borer is a beetle loves our ash trees. It flies from ash tree to ash tree laying its eggs in the bark. The eggs hatch and the larvae bore into the tree and block the flow of water and nutrients. The US experience with this pest is that every infected tree dies and once a tree is infected it dies within three years.When the ash borer was first noticed in North America it was confined to a small area of southern Canada and southeast Michigan. In Michigan alone it has killed tens of millions of ash trees and there’s no sign of the spread stopping http://www.emeraldashborer.info/.Since it was first detected the borer has spread to 15 states and two Canadian provinces. Quarantines on the transport of ash trees and their products have been imposed by the USDA to help prevented the beetles spread.Robert Haack of the United States Forest Service feels that “It look like this is going to be another Dutch elm disease.” In the 1930’s the U.S. lost half its elm trees to that disease. In the streets many towns the northern ash replaced the lost elms. The ash, being a hardy species and nearly disease free, was though to be a good choice. Now with the spread of the ash borer many streets in southern Michigan towns have no trees at all.From May until late July, adult ash borer beetles fly up to three miles between trees and the females lay eggs in the bark crevices. The larvae feed under the bark in late summer and fall, creating tunnels that block water and food flow from the roots. There’re no obvious outward signs of infestation until the tree starts to die and by then it is too late to do anything.The borer is being closely watched by the ash tree industry. As every little leaguer can tell you wooden baseball bats are made out of northern white ash. Seven out of ten Louisville Slugger bats used in the major leagues come from white ash. In one year over one million wooden bats are produced.While the ash borer is a serious concern, something else is at work underground that has the potential to change many ecosystems in North America. Exotic species of earthworms from Europe and Asia are consuming the leaf litter on forest floors that is vital to keeping our northern forests alive. This activity allows the spread of invasive plant species and changes the food chain for many forest animals. These worms have been arriving on our shores for as long as ships have been sailing here.They probably first arrived here in soil that was used as ballast in ships and no one noticed. When these new worms devour the leaf litter they change the low-nutrient, high-acid soils that the northern forests need to prevent weeds and other invasive species from getting a foothold, into aerated and nutrient rich loam. This is a good environment for your home garden but bad for the forest.These worms are spread in the root balls of transplanted trees, by fishermen and have been found along logging and hiking trails. There’s no known way to get rid of these new worms once they have become established. It’s hoped, that like the plant pest Kudzoo, an underground equilibrium will evolve and the forest will continue, as we know it today.
Think Global – Act Local!