Signs of Emerald Ash Borer Damage

ash borer damage

When we built our current home in 1998, we carefully selected a beautiful ash tree for the front yard. By the time our second and third children were old enough to climb, it’s branches were substantial enough to support their weight. Together with neighborhood friends, they spent countless hours climbing, swinging, and just hanging out.

Our neighborhood, which includes the tree as part of it’s namesake, was once full of ash trees. Ours is currently one of the last few standing. Like many Ohio ash trees, they have all succumbed to the Emerald Ash Borer. 

Despite my husband applying expensive treatments over the years to try to fend off the insect, ours is on it’s last season. Most of the canopy has died off, the limbs and bark are extensively damaged.

An Imported Pest

 The Emerald Ash Borer migrated to the United States from Asia, probably in some wooden packing materials. It was first identified in Ohio in 2003, initially in the Toledo area. Quarantines, which have since been lifted, proved ineffective as the insect spread throughout the Buckeye State. 

I’ve never seen an actual beetle, despite looking at our affected tree. According to the forestry page at the Ohio Division of Natural Resources the adult beetle is 1/2 inch long and 1/8 inch wide.

They are a dark metallic green in color. Though they only fly in the spring and summer months, the larvae develop beneath the bark of the trees year round.
According to the article, they only have an appetite for ash trees. The larvae develop underneath the bark, feeding on the living part of the tree. The tree is then unable to move water and nutrients, and dies within about three to five years. 

Signs of Distress

When our tree started showing signs of distress a few year ago, I was in denial at first. Though I could see some damage to the bark, I hadn’t seen any of the adult beetles and didn’t spot any of the characteristic D-shaped holes mentioned in many of the articles. 

There were other signs. One of the first signs, which I missed were woodpeckers. Apparently woodpeckers love the ash borer larvae. And for a time we had woodpecker guests on a daily basis. 

Eventually the canopy started dying out in patches, followed by bark damage. And finally, it seemed like the bark was busting off in every direction. The tell tale sign of the ash borer, serpentine like trails under the bark, were fully exposed.

Before the ash borer, the Ohio DNR estimated 3.8 billion ash trees in the state of Ohio. In fact, one of every ten trees in the state was an ash tree. 

For More Information

If your property has ash trees, you may want to visit the Ohio Division of Natural Resources or the Emerald Ash Borer Information Network. You can find more information including additional pictures of the signs of infestation as well as pictures of adult emerald ash borer beetles.