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emerald ash borer

Biocontrol Staff Are Modern-Day MacGyvers in the Fight Against Invasive Beetle

Emerald ash borer (EAB) beetle is an invasive wood boring beetle, first detected in July 2002 in southeastern Michigan. The pest attacks and kills ash trees and it is responsible for the death and decline of tens of millions of ash in 25 states. EAB lives under the bark and when people move EAB-infested firewood they unknowingly move the pest. During EAB Awareness Week (May 22-28) leave HungryPests behind and don’t move firewood.

Do you remember the eighties television show MacGyver? Science genius turns secret agent. Each week Angus MacGyver—armed with only a pen, aerosol spray can and a Swiss Army knife—successfully disarms the bomb and saves the day! The following week, it’s a shoe horn, jumper cables and a screwdriver…then a thermos, belt buckle….you get the drift. Sixty minutes of ingenious, nail-biting problem-solving.

Although the show’s final episode aired almost 25 years ago, the spirit of Angus lives on at the USDA’s Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) biological control production facility, where USDA is strategically rearing natural enemies to combat this destructive pest.  Mass rearing biocontrol agents (stingless wasps) is a delicate process that’s time-sensitive, labor-intensive, and laden with problem-solving opportunities.

Invasive Pest Invades a National Comic Strip

Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) Awareness week is May 17-23 and my tenure in a nationally syndicated comic strip is coming to an end, so it’s a good time to tell you how a new USDA employee wound up cartoon-ized.

The Mark Trail strip—known for its environmental themes—just finished a six-week long storyline about the invasive EAB.  The EAB, a small metallic green wood-boring beetle, destroys ash trees and is now found in 25 U.S. States.  The Mark Trail strip features “Agent Abbey Powell from the USDA” and shares information about the EAB. To view the comic—beginning with my debut—visit Mark Trail.

Forests a Fascination Since High School for Legislative Affairs Specialist

When Katie Armstrong read “So You Want to be a Forester,” like many high school students she wasn’t sure what career path she wanted to follow. So she decided to attend a summer forestry camp offered by Michigan Tech. After the camp she was hooked.

Then she set her goal on attending Michigan State University to study forestry.

“During my time at MSU one of my professors introduced me to urban forestry. I loved it so much I went back for a master’s degree in Forestry and Urban Studies,” said Armstrong.

Scientists Work to Protect Trees in Southeast Alaska from Non-Native Longhorned Beetles

Non-native longhorned beetles are easily transported around the world in solid wood packing material, arriving in a new location with no natural enemies to control their populations. Across the country, many of these non-native beetles, particularly the Asian longhorned beetle, have killed tens of thousands of hardwood trees, especially in eastern states.

Will these pests ravage trees in Southeast Alaska? U.S. Forest Service specialists are working to determine ways to prevent the kind of devastation they’ve had elsewhere.

Virginia Tech Demonstrates New Method to Treat Ash Firewood

The shiny green one-half-inch-long, one-eighth-inch-wide emerald ash borer has destroyed tens of millions of ash trees in the U.S. since the beetle’s discovery in 2002 in Detroit.

The real Ash trees comprise around seven percent of the trees in eastern U.S. forests. In urban areas, ash trees make up about 50 percent of street trees.

Ash trees are important both economically and ecologically. A wide array of  products are made from ash wood, including baseball bats, tool handles, pool cues, furniture, cabinets, oars, and acoustic and electric guitars. Ash seeds are an important food source for birds, mice, squirrels, and other small mammals. Ash trees also provide essential habitat for cavity nesting birds, such as woodpeckers, owls, and wood ducks.

New International Wood Packaging Standard Stops Bugs Dead in their Tracks

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Wood makes great packaging material—it’s inexpensive, abundant and versatile—but there’s one drawback: destructive forest pests stowaway in the pallets, crates and dunnage (wood used to brace cargo) used in international shipping. Over many years, international trade has resulted in the inadvertent introduction of many non-native wood-feeding pests and plant pathogens in the U.S. and throughout the world. Some of these non-native insects, including the emerald ash borer and the Asian longhorned beetle, have become highly invasive and caused serious environmental and economic impacts.

But an international standard for wood packaging material is slowing the inadvertent export of invasive bark- and wood-boring insects, according to a study conducted by Robert Haack, a research entomologist with the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station in Lansing, Mich., and a team of scientists. Researchers found as much as a 52 percent drop in infestation rates in the U.S., where the standard was implemented in three phases between 2005 and 2006. The study was published May 14 in the journal PLOS ONE.

A New Weapon in the Fight to Protect America's Ash Trees is Under Evaluation

May 18-24, 2014 is Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week

In our efforts to preserve and protect American ash trees from the damaging and invasive emerald ash borer (EAB) beetle, APHIS is working diligently to find and implement solutions that have the potential to successfully conserve this beautiful natural resource. Spathius galinae (S. galinae) just could be that newest weapon in the arsenal.

The tiny stingless wasp, about the size of a typical mosquito, targets and attacks EAB larvae living under the bark of ash trees.  Crawling along the bark ridges and furrows, S. galinae somehow senses EAB larvae hidden below.  The wasp not only accurately locates its target, but also is able to determine relative size—showing preference for large EAB larvae.  Once a suitable larva is detected, the female wasp uses its long egg-laying organ (ovipositor) like a hydraulic drill to bore down through the layers of bark and deposit between 5 and 15 eggs on its host.  After the eggs hatch, the wasp offspring feed on the EAB larva, eventually killing it.  A new generation of S. galinae emerges in about 35 days.

Forest Service Applauds the United Nations' Second Annual International Day of Forests

A world without forests would be pretty bleak. Life as we know it couldn’t exist. In fact it would, more than likely, be a dead planet. That’s because everything we take for granted; clean air and water, abundant wildlife and nearly every product we use in our daily lives, from the roof above our heads to pencils, wouldn’t exist.

It would be a challenge just to live one day without using a product derived from a tree. Aside from paper, you might not even be able to sit in a chair or desk at school or work. These things are part of our everyday existence because of forests.

Since trees are important for everyone around the world, the United Nations (U.N.) has designated every March 21 as the International Day of Forests.

International Researchers Mobilize Against Risky Stowaway Pests

Sometimes there is more to global trade than meets the eye. While consumers and economies may benefit from expanding market opportunities and a seemingly endless array of readily available goods, harmful pests could be lurking as people and products are transported between countries.

An international research network, including scientists from the U.S. Forest Service, has come together to share information about how exotic animals, diseases and plants can move and spread—and threaten agricultural and natural resources.

The International Pest Risk Mapping Workgroup consists of governmental and academic scientists from around the globe who study potential stowaway pests in order to assess the likelihood of their establishment in new locations and the impacts if and where they spread.

All That Glitters Is Not Gold ....

In this case it is green, a brilliant emerald green, and it is chomping its way through America's forests. The emerald ash borer (EAB), Agrilus planipennis, may look pretty, but it is killing our ash trees in our forests and backyards.

This is Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week (May 19-25) and the time of year when you might see adult beetles flitting about among your ash trees. It is also the time of year you may unknowingly move this pest if you pack firewood when you kick off the summer camping season.