Ash trees face extinction in Arkansas due to invasive beetle
Posted November 27
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Forestry experts are hoping a stingerless type of wasp will help control an invasive beetle that's killing ash trees in Arkansas.
The emerald ash borer, a native to Asia, feeds on the trees, eventually killing them. It's blamed for killing tens of millions of ash trees since being discovered in the U.S. in 2002.
It was first found in Arkansas in 2014 and is now confirmed in a dozen counties in south-central and southern Arkansas and in Randolph County in the northeast.
A quarantine bans taking ash tree products out of those areas, but is difficult to enforce.
Arkansas Forestry Commission officials are now hoping for a long-term solution in the form of "bio-control wasps." The wasps have helped fight off the beetle in its native Asia, where ash trees are evolving to resist the devastation of the borer.
Some 4,000 of the wasps have been released in Arkansas, according to Forestry Commission forest health expert Chandler Barton, and officials will know sometime next year how they fared.
Barton said the quarantine will also help, as do native species, although there are not enough of them.
"Woodpeckers do a great job, but there are just too many emerald ash borers," Barton told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/2fTj3ZJ ).
Ash makes up only about 3 percent of the marketable hardwoods in Arkansas, so the economic losses aren't necessarily staggering, Barton said.
Still, the ash is popular in the making of furniture, baseball bats, guitars and boats.
"But, ecologically, it is a disaster because we're essentially losing a whole genus of trees," he said.
Some insecticides have been known to work against the beetle, but using insecticides isn't practical in a forest where an infested tree has to be treated individually. A homeowner with a few ash trees should check with an extension agent for advice, Barton said, but he warned that damage is done from the top down and said that by the time damage is found around the trunk of a tree, it's too late to save the tree.