Friday, August 16, 2013

Some Good News About Emerald Ash Borer

Woodpecker holes looking for EAB larva.

The Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), an invasive highly destructive wood-boring insect that attacks ash trees, was first discovered in SE Michigan in 2002.  Since that time it has killed more than  40 million ash trees in the states of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Maryland, and Illinois.  In Pennsylvania is has now been detected in 41 counties, Erie County was just recently added to the list.  It has now become an international problem, occurring on more 18 states and Canada and is expected to cost in the billions of dollars in tree loss, control, and eradication efforts.  State and federal regulatory agencies have made EAB a top priority.

So what could possibly be good about the loss of ash trees (white, green, and black ash) from this destructive insect?  Well, apparently if you are a woodpecker this insect is a great food source and a boom to your population.  Researchers with the U.S. Forest Service and Cornell University were able to document huge population increases in 3 species of woodpeckers (downy, hairy, and red-bellied) as well as the white-breasted nuthatch, a bark gleaning species.  These species have figured out that EAB is edible and it has actually helped them to increase their reproductive success.  Even as tree are killed these species stand to benefit from an abundance of possible cavity trees for nesting.

EAB larva under bark.
So as federal, state, and local authorities work to find ways to slow the spread of the insect or stop it altogether many birds species are actually be benefiting from the increased food supply. 

Increase in Woodpecker Populations Linked to Feasting on Emerald Ash Borer
MORGANTOWN, WV, August 8, 2013 - The scourge of forests, the emerald ash borer, or EAB, is usually described with words like “destructive” and “pest.” A recent study based on data collected by citizen scientists suggests that one more adjective might apply, at least from a bird’s perspective: “delicious.”
In a study published this week in the journal Biological Invasions, U.S. Forest Service entomologist Andrew Liebhold and Cornell Universityscientist Walter Koenig and others document how an EAB invasion fueled a population boom for four species of birds in the Detroit area.

To read the full story click here.

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