Emerald ash borer research to be conducted in Minnesota

December 23, 2011 by  

The emerald ash borer (EAB) is a destructive, non-native insect, which was accidentally introduced to the United States and Canada in the 1990s. The pest is killing an alarming number of ash trees in the United States. With the help of the U.S. Forest Service, the University of Minnesota and five metro-area cities, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture will be conducting research on the emerald ash borer in five Minnesota cities.

Researchers will collect about 1,800 branches from 300 trees in St. Paul, Lauderdale, Minneapolis, Falcon Heights and Roseville. This research area is centered on the state’s first confirmed sighting of the insect, which was in St. Paul in May 2009. EAB larvae feed off an ash tree’s nutrient supply and eventually kill the tree. They’re green, about a half-inch long and have black eyes. Infected trees will often show exit holes in the tree’s bark and winding tunnels beneath it. Local print companies in Minnesota could help through poster printing services to help citizens identify and report the insect.

This method of pinpointing EAB infestation is known as branch sampling, and it’s a fairly new method. Previously, researchers have relied mostly on mere visual inspection to spot the pest. Although this method is more laborious, and thus more costly, it could help to spot early infestations in trees that appear perfectly healthy. A Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund grant is paying for the study, and Entomologist Mark Abrahamson says it will be beneficial. “The main benefit of branch sampling,” he said, “will be improved detection rates on low-level infestations.”