Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Learn To Spot Emerald Ash Borer

EABadult4in72DavidCappaertMichiganStateUOne of the invasive species that deserves attention by forest owners is the emerald ash borer (EAB). Having eaten its way through the Great Lakes states and portions of the upper Midwest, the EAB is on a fast track to Northern New York.

Since its discovery in 2002, the emerald ash borer has stripped cities and villages of all ash trees. Dorothy wouldn’t recognize one of these “emerald cities.” Treeless neighborhoods in places like Fort Wayne, IN, or Dayton, OH are a far cry from the emerald city of Oz.

The EAB is a very small, 3/8 to 1/2-inch, bullet-shaped beetle that would be easy to overlook if not for its bright, metallic, emerald-green “paint job” with copper highlights.

The beetles themselves do little harm, but their immature stage, larvae, feed on cambium tissue of ash trees, girdling and thus killing them. Aside from the relatively few ash that will be treated with insecticides through the estimated 15-year duration of an EAB infestation, New York State will lose its 900 million ash trees.

With EAB closing in from the west, south and north, there’s no way to keep it from reaching Northern NY. In fact, given that it’s been found in southern Ontario just across the St. Lawrence River, its arrival will be sooner rather than later. They are quite capable of flying over the river and into our woods, and you can bet they will not check in with the Border Patrol.

To prepare for the inevitable appearance of this insect, communities need to find how many ash trees they have in order to calculate and plan for removal costs. An ash tree survey would also identify the ash trees of good health and form to preserve. While a few towns have tree inventories, most do not, and some of those may welcome volunteer help to survey ash trees.

While many signs of EAB damage manifest during summer, there are a couple of things to look for in winter time. Extensive but shallow woodpecker feeding in late winter, especially on the south and west sides of the trunk, may indicate an EAB infestation. Report all suspected cases of EAB activity to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation or your local Cornell Cooperative Extension office.

Early planning and community involvement are the keys to weathering the EAB storm with as many surviving ash as possible and without breaking the bank. The first step is to become educated about EAB.

Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County is offering an Invasive Species First Detector training in Canton February 26 from 12:00-4:30. The training is free and open to the public and will cover emerald ash borer as well as hemlock woolly adelgid and Asian longhorn beetle. To register for the Invasive Species First Detector training in Canton on February 26 or for more information, contact Paul Hetzler at Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County, 315-379-9192,

Related Stories

Paul Hetzler has been an ISA Certified Arborist since 1996. His work has appeared in the medical journal The Lancet, as well as Highlights for Children Magazine.You can read more of his work at or by picking up a copy of his book Shady Characters: Plant Vampires, Caterpillar Soup, Leprechaun Trees and Other Hilarities of the Natural World

8 Responses

  1. Michael Ludovici says:

    Just tell me how I might save my favorite trees.

  2. Marco says:

    Actually, they are already here. I identified a couple of them in the St. Regis Area with my daughter last year. Don’t think they will stay there, not a lot of ash. A very pretty bug, but I know that they will kill off the ash. Not sure of the identification, but they sure looked like your picture.

  3. Paul Hetzler says:


    Give a call to your Cornell Cooperative Extension or NYSDEC office–they can help you sift through the options and come up with a strategy. There’s an excellent booklet on insecticide options at


    Yes, it’s more than likely EAB is in NNY already–we’re looking for them along the St. Lawrence Seaway in particular, and campgrounds. In the St. Regis area it’s possible someone brought infested firewood from home. It’s not a place EAB would likely show up under their own steam. We do have some native borers in the same family as EAB that look similar. You can report your sighting to the DEC at (866) 640-0652 or email

  4. Wally Elton says:

    I am interested in the reference to “the estimated 15-year duration of an EAB infestation.” What is that based on? Does it mean that all ash trees will be gone in that time, or there will be too few left to support a beetle population? And what size area does it refer to?

  5. Paul Hetzler says:

    Fifteen years is only an estimate, and it’s based on the experience of other regions which have had EAB for some time now. Unfortunately, it does mean that all unprotected ash trees will be gone, even saplings. It would be roughly the same for any area.

  6. Learn To Spot Emerald Ash Borer » Upper Saranac Lake Association says:

    […] Read Article […]

  7. Paul Hetzler says:

    The website is probably the best resource for getting your questions about how to save ash trees answered.

  8. Michael Ludovici says:

    Paul, a belated thanks for the link.
    A very thorough treatment of how to deal with the EAB.

Wait! Before you go:

Catch up on all your Adirondack
news, delivered weekly to your inbox