Out of the ashes

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Is the tide turning in the battle against the Emerald Ash Borer? Probably not yet, but there is a promising sign.

I last wrote about the Emerald Ash Borer about two years ago. We were living in the Ohio River valley then and I related my shock during a spring-day trip to a local park at how many ash trees had been destroyed during the winter. I’m in Pennsylvania now and we’ve been hit worse here, even though the EAB arrived in 2007, several years after Ohio’s infestation began.

Here, EAB infestations are reported in all of the state’s 67 counties – every single one. The pest worked fast here. According to the State Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, 99 percent of our ash trees have been killed. Wrap your head around that figure: 99 percent.

But think about that remaining 1 percent; what’s up with them? According to the DCNR, those survivors appear to be tolerant to the EAB. Maybe they’re stronger, or maybe their genetic makeup is slightly different. Then again, maybe the pests just don’t think they tasted good. Whatever the reason, these remaining trees hold the hope for the future ash population here. The DCNR has collected seeds from those trees and they show signs that they’re even more tolerant than the parent trees, which is incredibly good news. With careful planting and distribution, there’s hope that Pennsylvania ash can become reestablished.

We still have to contend with the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, Spotted Lanternfly (newly arrived in just the last few years), and the familiar Gypsy Moth, which has been devastating the state for decades. While there is a bit of hopeful news with ash trees, the battle against these invaders is far, far from over.

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