Ash-tree destroying insects hover near Washington state

An invasive insect that has decimated ash tree populations in 35 states and five Canadian provinces may soon arrive in Washington. The Emerald Ash Borer was spotted last month in Forest Grove, Oregon, just 20 miles from Vancouver.

The insect was first seen in North America near Detroit in the summer of 2002. It is believed to have arrived from Asia, carried either by ship or airplane in wood packing materials. Since then, it has destroyed tens of millions of ash trees, according to the USDA Forest Service, and is considered the most destructive forest pest ever seen in North America.

“Vancouver is reviewing our tree inventory to determine where ash trees are located in parks and on public lands,” Vancouver Urban Forester Charles Ray said, according to a KOIN report. “Private property owners are encouraged to do the same.”

In Washington, the Oregon ash tree grows along Puget Sound, in the western Cascade Range, and along the southwestern coast, according to the USDA Forest Service.

The Washington Invasive Species Council advises Washingtonians who leave the state not to bring home items capable of containing the Emerald Ash Borer, including wood for campfires. Instead they are urged to buy firewood when they get to their camping destinations.

Adult beetles do little damage, feeding on ash leaves. Their larvae feed on the inner bark, which disrupts the tree's ability to transport water and nutrients. An infestation can kill a healthy ash tree in about two years.

Adult beetles are metallic green and about 1.5 inches in length. Symptoms of infestation include flagging limbs or dead branches, signs of tunneling under cracked bark and D-shaped exit holes left by beetles after laying eggs.

Woodpeckers feed on insect larvae, so a tree with heavy damage from woodpeckers could be infested with Emerald Ash Borer.

Washington State Department of Agriculture conducts annual visual and trap surveys to monitor the potential arrival of the Emerald Ash Borer. So far, none have been found. Sightings of the Emerald Ash borer in Washington can be reported to the WSDA at 800-443-6684.

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