Trouble Ahead for the White Ash

Frank Zappa once wrote a song called “Trouble Every Day.” Here’s the salient excerpt from that tune:

So I’m watchin’ and I’m waitin’
Hopin’ for the best
Even think I’ll go to prayin’
Every time I hear ‘em sayin’
That there’s no way to delay
That trouble comin’ every day
No way to delay
That trouble comin’ every day

Trouble, oh we got trouble, right here in River City. This menace comes in the form of the emerald ash borer. Take West Virginia for instance.

Just the Facts, Ma’am

This beast has been threatening white ash trees for years. But our story begins a summer-or-so back. Some say, the emerald ash borer in the state’s southern Calhoun and Roane Counties has the potential of making that species of tree on the steps of total extinction.

The bug came to our continent from Asia around two decades ago. It decimated the white ash in Michigan back in 2002. The beetle devastated a little Michigan city of its ash trees, killing well-over 2-thousand of them and costing the place 2-million bucks to dispose of the dead and dying trees. Factor that up-to a nationwide scale and you’re talking billions of dollars.

Then in 2007, it showed-up on the radar in Fayette County, West Virginia.

And since the insect can fly and has no natural predators, it stands to reason that that the worst is yet to come.

How Bad Are We Talking About?

Even with the millions-upon-millions of dough spent to eliminate the monster, so far nearly 30-million trees have caught the bug. To add insult to injury, the emerald ash borer also feasts on green ash – and practically every other breed in the ash family. As of this writing, the insect has blanketed about 2/3rds of the U.S.

Another factor of concern is whether native western ashes like Oregon and Arizona ash may become victims as well.

Spotting the EAB

This little fellow is green – emerald green, which is where it gets its name.

You’ll first spot the EAB in late spring. They only live around 3-weeks. The ladies of the group lay their eggs in the wrinkles of the bark. Once the critters hatch, the larvae munches into the inner bark. You’ll know you have a problem if you X-ray the outer shell of the tree and see tunnels shaped like the letter “S.” In this inner sanctum of the tree, the invasion screws-up the way that nutrients and water travel through the living structure.

By the time you figure-out that the tree is plague-ridden, game over. Regardless, save the kids and call your county Agricultural Extension office as soon as possible.

Sure, they fly from state to state, but when things start to go south, you’ll first discover that ash along the Interstate highway system is going blotto. Why? Bad actors are transporting the wood illegally. The bug is simply hitching a ride aboard the flat bed truck.

We conclude with another slap of lyrics from Frank. Same song. New verse:

Well I’m about to get sick
From watchin’ my TV
Been checkin’ out the news
Until my eyeballs fail to see
I mean to say that every day
Is just another rotten mess
And when it’s gonna change, my friend
Is anybody’s guess!

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