The emerald ash borer is a new, significant threat to the urban and rural forests of Iowa. First identified in 2002 in southeastern Michigan, this exotic beetle is responsible for the death and decline of more than 25 million ash trees in southeast Michigan and adjacent parts of Indiana and Ohio. The small, green beetle lays eggs on ash trees. Upon hatching, the larvae chew through the bark and feed on the tree. Trees die in two to four years from initial attack.
Iowa has an estimated 50 million rural ash trees and 10 million urban ash trees. So far, the pest has not been observed here, said ISU Extension entomologist Mark Shour. “However, the emerald ash borer was detected in Illinois in 2006 and is a great concern because of its proximity to Iowa and Interstate 80.” ISU Extension, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and USDA have developed a readiness plan for handling this pest.
The beetle can fly only short distances (1 to 2 miles). But long distance movement occurs via infested ash products such as nursery stock, logs, branches, wood chips and firewood. Thus, campgrounds are high-risk areas for introducing this pest into Iowa.
“Tourists coming to Iowa to camp might bring firewood with them; if some of this wood were infested with emerald ash borer, there is a good chance this pest could establish in the state,” Shour said.