Millions of ash trees are being killed by a tiny green beetle called the emerald ash borer. Some people say all those dead trees shouldn’t be considered waste, so they’re recycling the trees into lumber.
The GLRC’s Rebecca Williams has more:
Millions of ash trees are being killed by a tiny green beetle called
the emerald ash borer. Some people say all those dead trees shouldn’t
be considered waste, so they’re recycling the trees into lumber. The
GLRC’s Rebecca Williams has more:
Most of the time, when cities cut down their dead ash trees, they chip
up the trees and have them hauled away. Some people are trying to find
uses for the lumber from the trees instead.
Jessica Simons is with the Southeast Michigan Resource Conservation and
Development Council. It’s a nonprofit group that’s giving out grants to
promote the use of ash wood. Simons says cutting ash logs into lumber
can sometimes save cities money, because they can cut back on the cost
of chipping up and hauling away the trees:
“They’re also aren’t paying for lumber for other city projects because
they’re just paying for that wood to be milled and then they have all
the wood they need for projects like park benches or picnic tables or
sideboards for their trucks.”
Simons says because it’s a relatively new concept some cities have had
trouble finding room to store all of the lumber they’ve made from the
trees, but she says the idea’s still starting to catch on, as cities
look for ways to cut costs.
The emerald ash borer is killing ash trees in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Ontario... and scientists say all the ash in North America is at risk if the beetle can't be stopped. (Photo courtesy of USFS)
Adult emerald ash borers lay eggs on the bark of ash trees. When the eggs hatch, the little larvae chew right through the bark and feast on the living tissue under the bark. The beetles cut off the tree's water and food supply. When the larvae become adults, they emerge from the tree, leaving a D-shaped exit hole.(Photo courtesy of the Michigan Department of
The bark of an infested ash tree splits and pulls away from the tree. Chunks of bark can fall off the tree as it dies. (Photo courtesy of the Michigan Department of Agriculture)
A tiny green beetle is killing millions of ash trees. And so far nobody’s
found a way to stop it in its tracks. The GLRC’s Rebecca Williams reports cities and states are struggling to find money to keep the beetle from spreading:
A tiny green beetle is killing millions of ash trees. And so far nobody’s
found a way to stop it in its tracks. The GLRC’s Rebecca Williams
reports cities and states are struggling to find money to keep the beetle
Once emerald ash borers chew their way into your ash trees, there’s
pretty much only one thing you can do.
(Sound of chainsaw and tree cracking and falling)
Crews here have been sawing down and chipping up trees six days a
week. In some places, crews are cutting down both dead and live trees.
Dead trees are a safety hazard. Cutting live trees near infested areas can
help contain the beetles.
The emerald ash borer is native to China. Scientists think it got in on
wood packing crates more than ten years ago. The emerald ash borer eats
through the living part of the tree just underneath the bark. The beetles
cut off the tree’s water and food supply… so it starves to death. 15
million ash trees are dead or dying in Michigan. Hundreds of thousands
are dying in Ohio, Indiana and Ontario, and it could spread to other states
Some cities have been hit really hard. For example, some of the trees in
Ann Arbor, Michigan have been dead for a couple of years. Kay
Sichenader is the city’s forester. She says she’s worried about limbs
breaking off trees, or bark falling off in 80 pound chunks.
“There’s some terrifically bad ones out there. Nothing will make me
happier than when those trees are down, I gotta tell you.”
This isn’t the first time cities have lost big shade trees. Dutch elm
disease almost wiped out American elms in the 1960’s and 70’s. It’s a
little ironic: people planted ash trees to replace the elms because they
thought ash trees were invincible.
That love of ash trees means cities are losing 20 or 30 percent of their
trees, and they’re spending millions of dollars to take trees out.
Forester Kay Sichenader says her city normally takes out a thousand old
trees a year. Now, she’s got ten times as many trees to cut down.
“If I never bumped it up, and we just remained with our thousand a year,
we would never change because it would take me ten years to get the ash
out. In the meantime I’d have 10,000 more dead trees to deal with. It’s
Sichenader says the city’s trying to get the dead ash trees out as fast as
they can. She’s contracted five extra crews to saw down trees. She
hopes they’ll be done by the end of the year, but it might be longer.
Many homeowners are getting impatient. They’re worried about big
branches falling on their cars or homes. Or worse, falling on their kids.
Laura Lee Hayes lives in a cul-de-sac with four infested ash trees. She
points out a big branch on her neighbor’s dead tree.
“This whole piece is just laying here, ready to pull off, and there are
small children that play in this yard. That’s why I look to my city to get
over here and get these trees down. There’s a real frightening aspect to
Hayes says she tried to pay to take the trees down herself, but she found
out it would’ve cost more than a thousand dollars.
In Indiana, homeowners now have to spend their own money to get rid of
dead trees in their yards. State officials say they can’t afford to keep
cutting down live ash trees to slow the infestation. The state won’t be
giving money to help cities cut down dead trees either. That could mean
the emerald ash borer will spread unchecked.
At first, the federal government sent states several million dollars to fight
the beetle, but now the money’s just trickling in. In 2004, Michigan
Governor Jennifer Granholm asked President Bush to declare the state a
federal disaster area. That request was denied. Recently, officials in
Ohio and Michigan said they’ll have to cut back on containing new
These trends worry scientists.
Deb McCullough is a forest entomologist at Michigan State University.
She says states barely have enough money to monitor how far the beetle’s
spreading, and she says a lot more money’s needed for ad campaigns to
tell people to stop moving firewood. The beetle spreads fastest when
campers or hunters move infested wood.
“You have to look down the road, and either you spend millions of
dollars today to try to contain emerald ash borer or we’re going to be
looking at losses in the tens of billions of dollars in the future, and it’s not
too distant of a future.”
McCullough says if more funding doesn’t come in states might need to
have timber sales to take ash out before the beetle kills it. And cities will
still be paying millions of dollars to take out dead trees. That means
people who live in those cities might see cuts in other programs or have
to pay higher taxes.
Deb McCullough says the economic impacts are serious… but the
environmental impacts could be even worse. She says it’s hard to know
how wildlife might be affected if we continue to lose millions of ash
A state has abandoned its efforts to stop the spread of a tree-killing beetle because of the cost. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jeff Bossert
A state has abandoned its efforts to stop the spread of a tree-killing beetle
because of the cost. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jeff Bossert
The emerald ash borer has been spreading in the upper Midwest…
killing millions of ash trees along the way. Since it was first discovered
in northern Indiana two years ago… more than 100-thousand ash trees
have died in that state.
The infestations are hard to find… and state officials say cutting down
trees hasn’t been enough to stop the beetle. Now, the state’s Department
of Natural Resources has decided to stop cutting down trees, and instead,
just monitor the infestation.
State entomologist Bob Walz says he hopes technology will one day
“It’s our hope in the next several years that we’ll have a better tool to
conduct surveys and be able to better limit where emerald ash borer is
found, but at the present time we just don’t have a good tool and
therefore, we’re always playing catch up.”
State officials say some of the blame can be placed on those who ignore
warnings… and take firewood from infected areas.
Emerald Ash borer is a type of beetle that is threatening black
ash trees. (Photo courtesy of USFS)
American Indians have been making baskets from the wood
of black ash trees for hundreds of years. Now, they see that tradition threatened by a beetle. The emerald ash borer has killed millions of ash trees in Lower Michigan over the past few years, and Indian basket makers are preparing for the day when their grandchildren may no longer find black ash. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bob Allen
American Indians have been making baskets from the wood of black ash trees
for hundreds of years. Now, they see that tradition threatened by a beetle. The
emerald ash borer has killed millions of ash trees in Lower Michigan over the
past few years, and Indian basket makers are preparing for the day when their
grandchildren may no longer find black ash. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Bob Allen reports:
(Sound of museum)
The Anishinabe believe the black ash tree is a gift to their people, and they say
its carried them through many hard times. The story of the baskets is part of a
display in the Ziibiwing Center at the Saginaw Chippewa Reservation in
Judy Pamp is assistant director of the Center, and she remembers how
important baskets were when she was growing up.
“If we ate it was because there were baskets to sell or trade, and it went from
that being the thing that sustained us to where now it’s more of a an art and a rare art,
and that you do in limited quantities.”
Pamp comes from a long line of basket makers, and she’d like to pass on the
skills to her granddaughter, but she says the baskets aren’t the most
important thing… rather it’s a sense of connection among the generations.
“You know the whole family pulling together, the whole community pulling
together to help one another out… that everybody was important and
everybody had their role.”
Some family members may be good at one part of the basket making, and
there’s plenty of work to divvy up. First, there’s going into a swamp to find a
black ash tree, cut it down and haul it out.
(Sound of pounding)
Then, there’s peeling off the bark, and pounding the wood into strips, called
splints, for baskets. All that can take 25 hours of hand labor. Then, it’s
another 6 or 8 hours to weave a basket. Without the trees, basket makers worry
they may lose that closeness of working together.
The emerald ash borer isn’t on tribal lands yet, but it’s in
two neighboring counties. Scientists say it’s only a matter of time before the
beetle invades the reservation and wipes out the ash tree. The invasive pest got
to the U.S. in cargo shipped from Asia. Despite quarantines the bug continues to
spread because people move infested firewood, timber or landscape trees.
Deb McCullough is an entomologist at Michigan State University. She
concedes ash trees in Lower Michigan are goners.
“Took me a while to get my mind around that. You know we’re going to see
somewhere probably in the neighborhood of four hundred million ash trees in the forests
of lower Michigan that eventually are going to succumb to emerald ash borer
unless something really amazing happens in the next few years.”
McCullough says they’re looking for a way to help trees resist the insect, or a
predator to keep it in check, but it might be years before a solution is found.
So, the tribes are looking at their own ways to deal with the ash borer.
(Sound of splint pulling)
One idea is to harvest a whole bunch of black ash splints for baskets and freeze
them to use later. That would keep basket making going for a while.
(Sound of basket maker)
Another plan is to collect and save seeds from black ash trees.
Basket maker Renee Dillard says someday maybe trees can be replanted from
seed, but she says that means forty or fifty years before any wood is
harvestable, and she doesn’t think she’ll be around then to teach her
grandchildren how to choose the right tree and pound out the splints.
(Sound of pounding)
“As a people, we’re pretty resilient and we can adapt to change. It’s just that we’re
losing an important part of that whole black ash process, and I don’t want my great
grandchildren to just make baskets. They need to understand the whole process because
it’s done carefully and prayerfully.”
Dillard follows the old ways. She lays down tobacco as an offering of thanks for the tree,
and she believes this calls her ancestors to witness her use of the gift.
The Anishinabe don’t know why the emerald ash borer is taking their trees at
this time, but their tradition teaches for every hardship there will be an answer
and something to balance the loss.
The Asian Longhorned Beetle rapidly kills hardwood trees and had plagued Chicago for some time, but officials now report that progress is being made in the fight against the beetle population. (Photo courtesy of the Michigan DNR)
The City of Chicago and the U.S. Department of Agriculture
are celebrating a small victory in their battle against an invasive pest. The Asian Longhorned Beetle arrived from China in packing materials and is responsible for destroying thousands of hardwood trees in North America. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Shawn Allee has more:
The City of Chicago and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are celebrating a small victory in their battle against an invasive pest. The Asian Longhorned Beetle arrived from China and is responsible for destroying thousands of hardwood trees in North America. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Shawn Allee has more.
Chicago saw its first Asian Longhorned Beetle back in 1998. USDA and Chicago officials quickly destroyed more than fifteen hundred trees to stop the infestation. They also slapped a quarantine on the historic Ravenswood neighborhood, which prevented residents from removing tree cuttings from the area.
Now officials are lifting those restrictions, saying no one’s seen the bug in the area’s stately tree canopy for nearly two years. Joe McCarthy is the City of Chicago’s chief forester. He says a beetle hotline and a diligent press made the difference.
“There’s so much coverage of this thing, that the beetle is on TV, out in the papers, on front pages. And that’s how all the main infestations were found in the Chicago area.”
McCarthy points out that another Chicago neighborhood is still under quarantine.
The USDA is also fighting the Asian Longhorned Beetle in New York City and parts of New Jersey.
The Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle was introduced in 1916 to control aphids. It has since established populations around the country. (Photo courtesy of the USDA)
Many people in North America have already met the multicolored Asian lady beetle. It looks like an ordinary ladybug, but it has some bad habits. It stinks, it bites and it invades homes when the winter approaches and stays there until spring. And not only is it a pest in our houses, it has decided that it likes wine too. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Victoria Fenner has the story:
Many people in North America have already met the multicolored Asian lady beetle. It
looks like an ordinary ladybug, but it has some bad habits. It stinks, it bites and it
invades homes when the winter approaches and stays there until spring. And not only is
it a pest in our houses, it has decided that it likes wine too. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Victoria Fenner has the story:
Ann Sperling goes out to the vineyards every day to check for bugs. She’s the vintner
with Malivoire Winery. Malivoire is a small organic winery in the Niagara Peninsula in
Southern Ontario, just north of the New York State border. There’s one kind of bug in
particular that Ann is hoping she doesn’t see – the multicolored Asian lady beetle.
It was introduced to North American in 1916 to control help aphids on plants. In 1988 in
Louisiana, the ladybug population suddenly started to grow. Scientists still don’t know
what happened to make them reproduce so fast at that time. But in only six years, it
spread as far as the northern states and southern Canada.
The spread of the bug has been very bad for the grape and wine industry. Sperling is
nervous about these ladybugs because she was caught by surprise a few years back. She
didn’t know anything about the problems they would cause to her wine at the time.
“Typically there is a certain number of insects including wasps and things like that that
are harvested with the fruit and it doesn’t cause any problems in the processing. And in
2001 there were these Asian lady beetles and they infected, or affected, the flavor of the
wine, so that there were many wines from that vintage throughout the Niagara peninsula
that had the characteristic flavor and were not saleable.”
The big problem is that Asian ladybugs are the skunks of the insect world. Just like
skunks, they give off a bad smell to discourage predators. And they release a sticky
brown substance from the joints in their body when they’re stressed and they make a real
At harvest time, there’s a lot of commotion in the vineyards. That’s when the bugs get
really upset, and they leak all over the grapes. They also hang on to the grape clusters
and are pressed into the wine along with the fruit. Sperling says they had to dump half of
their 2001 vintage because it had a bitter taste and a bouquet of raw peanuts.
Because of this, the multicolored Asian Ladybug has become a big problem for wineries
in the Great Lakes region and in the Midwest. It’s such a pressing problem for the wine
industry that the Ontario Grape Growers Association has set up a special task force to
figure out what to do. Gerry Walker is heading up the task force. He says the ladybug
isn’t a problem this time of year, but the populations are being monitored to head off
potential problems during the harvest season.
“First of all, the bug usually is outside the vineyard for most of the season. It’s usually
located in soybean fields or forested areas. It has a wide host range in terms of what
aphid species it will feed on. It primarily feeds on aphids during the growing season,
populations build up and at the end of the growing season when cool temperatures occur
it cues the bug to look for hibernating wintering sites and also to fill up on sugars in order
to hibernate. And so they move to the vineyards as the grapes begin to ripen.”
Asian ladybugs are found across most of the southern part of North America –
everywhere that there is an aphid population.
And there is a connection between soybean fields and vineyards. Here’s why – aphids
like to eat soybeans, and the multicolored Asian ladybeetle likes to eat aphids. When the
soybeans are harvested, the beetles look for new food and move to the vineyards.
Mark Sears is an environmental biologist at the University of Guelph. He’s beginning a
study to find out the movement patterns of the ladybug. He says we can’t get rid of them.
All we can do is control them.
“This beetle’s been here long enough that there’s no way we’re going to eliminate it. We
just want to suppress its numbers so that it isn’t a problem, in this case, in the vineyards.
If we do a good job of suppressing aphids – we’re not going to eliminate them either, but
if we keep them at lower numbers then there’s less food available for beetle populations,
there will be fewer of them to move to vineyards. And therefore we should be able to
contain the problem, not the insect itself.”
Ann Sperling is one of many winemakers who’s happy to see that this major study of the
ladybug is being done. But the invasion of 2001 was also a valuable learning experience.
Sperling says they’re ready if it happens again. Malivoire Winery has bought a shaker
table to dislodge the bugs from the bunches of grapes. They’ll also hire more people to
sort the grapes by hand.
Some people in the wine industry don’t like to talk about the multicolored Asian ladybug.
They’re afraid of tainting the reputation of their wines. Ann Sperling agreed to talk about
it because she thinks there wouldn’t have been as much damage to their 2001 vintage if
they had been better prepared. They haven’t had any big problems since then.
If another large invasion happens now, Malvoire Winery is ready. Ann Sperling hopes
other wineries will learn from their experience.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Victoria Fenner.
An insect called the Emerald Ash Borer has already destroyed thousands of ash trees in Ontario and Michigan…and in February, it was discovered invading the northwest corner of Ohio. Agriculture officials there are trying to contain the bug before it spreads to still more states. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bill Cohen reports:
An insect called the Emerald Ash Borer has already destroyed thousands of ash trees in Ontario
and Michigan…and in February, it was discovered invading the northwest corner of Ohio.
Agriculture officials there are trying to contain the bug before it spreads to still more states.
The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bill Cohen reports:
At stake across the Great Lakes region: millions of dollars of wood that’s used for furniture,
cabinets, flooring, and baseball bats. That’s why Ohio agriculture officials have quarantined an
area around Toledo, banning residents from transporting ash wood out of the area. They’ve also
sprayed pesticide on nearby un-infected trees and taken even more drastic action among the 4,000
trees the beetles had already struck.
David Shlike works for the Ohio Agriculture Department.
“At ground zero, out a quarter of a mile, we cut everything, took it down. And had to chip it. We
hauled these chips to Michigan, and they were incinerated. It’s just a devastating pest and that
pest is going to be hatching out here anytime now between the 1st of May and the 15th of May,
and we were trying to take away its food source.”
It will be a few more months before it’s clear whether or not Ohio’s action has stopped the bugs’
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Bill Cohen in Columbus.
Scientists are working to control a new non-native beetle that’s destroying hundreds of thousands of ash trees in the Midwest. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Erin Toner reports:
Scientists are working to control a new non-native beetle that’s destroying hundreds of
thousands of ash trees in the Great Lakes region. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Erin Toner reports:
The Emerald Ash Borer is native to Asia, and probably made its way to the United States
through wood packing materials. Therese Poland is an entomologist with the
USDA. She says so far, the beetles have destroyed 100 thousand ash trees in southeastern
Michigan and southern Ontario.
“We think it’s been here for at least five years and even with some of the other exotic
beetles that have been discovered in recent years, when they were first discovered they
weren’t as widespread as this.”
Poland says there’s a quarantine over the infested areas to keep the beetles from moving
to new areas. Officials are inspecting nurseries to make sure they’re not selling infested
trees. They’re also checking whether tree care companies are disposing of trees properly.
But officials admit they probably won’t be able to stop people who unknowingly transport
infested firewood or yard waste.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Erin Toner.
The Asian longhorned beetle, native to China, is a serious threat to hardwood trees in the U.S. So far, populations of the beetle have been confined to Chicago and New York. Foresters are concerned that more non-native species will be introduced through expanded global trade. Photo courtesy of USDA-APHIS.
Forests in the Midwest may be under siege from exotic species more often in the future… partly because of international trade. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Rebecca Williams explains:
Forests in the Midwest may be under siege from exotic species more often in the future… partly because of international trade. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Rebecca Williams reports:
The Asian longhorned beetle is native to China.
The beetle caught a ride to the U.S. in the wooden packing material of
imported goods. So far, the beetle has been found in New York and
Once a tree is infested with beetles, the best way to stop the beetles from spreading is to destroy the tree.
A National Academy of Sciences study predicts that threats to native species will increase as trade opens up between the U.S. and China. The authors say that China may become a new “donor region” for species that could become invasive.
Entomologist Deborah McCullough is an author of the study.
“You can kind of visualize this whole complex of insects and weeds and plant pathogens in Asia that haven’t had a pathway, they haven’t had a route to be brought to the country yet… and we really don’t know what all could end up coming in.”
Dr. McCullough says because China’s range of climates and plant life are similar to that of the U.S., many species that make it over here have a chance to become established.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Rebecca Williams.
Foresters think they might be on the verge of eradicating a pest that destroys trees. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Foresters think they might be on the verge of eradicating a pest that destroys trees. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.
The Asian long horned beetle attacks maples and elms. The bug first appeared in 1996, after wood crates infested with the beetle were shipped to New York from China. A second infestation appeared in the Chicago area in 1998. Stan Smith is a manager of the tree nursery program for the Illinois Department of Agriculture. He says the Asian long horned beetle might be under control around Chicago.
“Our population, we feel, is small enough that it might be getting to the point where it might not be able to reproduce very well. Hopefully within four to five years we’ll have everything pretty well cleaned up. At least that’s what we think can happen.”
The beetle is more widespread in New York, but fortunately the insect can’t fly very far. That means it can’t spread quickly, giving foresters a better chance at eliminating the pest.