OXFORD — Efforts are underway to protect hundreds of trees on Miami University’s campus from an invasive insect.
More than 650 ash trees have been infected by the emerald ash borer, according to the university’s physical facilities department. Signs posted in Peffer Park and along the College Woods Loop warn visitors to “be alert to falling limbs” from infected trees.
“In my time, (the emerald ash borer) has had a significant impact on the loss of trees here,” said Cody Powell, Miami University’s Vice President of Facilities Planning and Operations, who has worked at the school since 1994.
The emerald ash borer, also known as EAB or Agrilus planipennis, is a beetle species originally native to China and eastern Asia. The species was first found in the United States in 2002 and has rapidly spread throughout the country. 33 states across the country have reported infestations, from Colorado to Connecticut, and the beetle has killed hundreds of millions of ash trees. The problem is so widespread that the Department of Agriculture has called the ash borer “the green menace.”
The first reported case of ash borers in Ohio came in 2003. The Ohio Department of Agriculture originally tried to quarantine the beetle to the northwest region of the state to limit its impact. But by 2011 there had been reported sightings in every county in Ohio and the quarantine was dropped.
EAB kills trees by planting eggs in the bark. As the larva grow, they eat the inside of the limbs and prevent the tree from growing. Once a tree has been infected by the beetle, it usually dies within a few years.
All species of ash trees are vulnerable to the ash borer.
According to David Carey, a biological science technician with the US Forest Service in Ohio, only 1 in 10,000 trees will be completely avoided by the ash borer.
Carey and other researchers are studying those trees that have survived attacks to see if their traits can be passed along to other trees.
“With enough survival trees, we hope to breed them and implement these defense mechanisms on other ash trees,” he said.