Emerald Ash Borer meets tough resistance

Eric R. Day, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Bugwood.org

INDIANAPOLIS — The emerald ash borer continues to ravage woodlands in every Indiana county. But the dreaded pest faces ramped-up resistance in the form of treatments funded by a growing group of citizens and organizations.

With the help of a $20,000 grant from the Dr. Laura Hare Charitable Trust and additional donations, the Indiana Parks Alliance has topped its initial fundraising goal by raising $28,770 to combat the invasive insect that attacks and destroys ash trees.

The funds will be used in IPA’s Save Our Ash Trees campaign to initially treat 100 mature, seed producing ash trees at several state parks and state nature preserves. EABs have been found in all 92 Indiana counties, and projections point to a potential 95 percent loss of the state’s ash trees over the next decade.

Nothing makes your day like coming home, sitting down at the computer and reading in an email that your organization has been awarded a $20,000 grant for your first major fundraising campaign,” said Tom Hohman, president of IPA, a volunteer organization that supports the missions of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources divisions of State Parks and Nature Preserves. 

“This not only allows us to meet our original goal of $20,000 but also gives us reserve funds for necessary retreatments in another two to three years, and to consider expanding the program to additional properties,” Hohman said.

In addition to the Laura Hare grant, IPA received donations of $1,000 from Friends of McCormick’s Creek State Park and the Indiana Native Plant & Wildflower Society, $700 from Friends of Fort Harrison State Park, and $250 from Friends of Limberlost State Historic Site.

Another 33 individual donors made contributions ranging from $10 to $1,000.

“While the $20,000 grant is the big news, it’s important to recognize the other donations,” Hohman said. “All of those donations have made this campaign a great success.”

The SOAT fundraising campaign is ongoing. Visit www.indianaparksalliance.org/save-our-ash-trees/ to donate online.

Emerald ash borers are invasive insects that have destroyed tens of millions of ash trees since arriving in the United States in 2002. Ash trees compose up to 20 percent of Indiana’s private and public forests.

SOAT has identified ash trees at Harmonie, McCormick’s Creek, Shades, and Turkey Run state parks, and at Coal Hollow, Russell Bend, and Shrader-Weaver nature preserves that have been relatively unaffected by EABs.

The trees will be injected with emamectin benzoate, an insecticide that causes insect paralysis. The U.S Forest Service uses emamectin benzoate to control emerald ash borers, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designates it as a reduced risk insecticide. The average cost of treating one mature ash tree is $200.

IPA’s treatment project will bolster an effort begun last year by DNR Nature Preserves, which treated 100 ash trees at nine state-managed properties.


What is an emerald ash borer?

The emerald ash borer is an exotic beetle, originally from Asia, that was first discovered in Michigan in 2002 and in Indiana in 2004. This invasive insect is 1/3 inch in length and bright, metallic green in color. The adult lays eggs only in ash trees. Emerald ash borers in the U.S. have no predators during their larval stage.

How do they kill ash trees?

Larvae feed on the inner bark of the tree, creating tunnels that circle the trunk and cut off the flow of water and nutrients from roots to leaves. Leaves in the top third of the tree die first, and then the damage moves down to lower branches.

Why should we care?

Ash trees make up as much as 20 percent of the diversity of tree species in our Hoosier forests, totaling about 147 million trees. Another two million grace city parks, residential lawns and street plantings. Ash wood is used for furniture, flooring, cabinets, hockey and lacrosse sticks, baseball bats, urban street plantings, and American Indian traditional baskets, pipe stems, flutes and medicinal remedies.

To maintain a remnant population of ash trees in Indiana, we must save mature, seed-producing specimens to create a future seed source of EAB-resistant ash trees. These trees are native species to our Indiana forests and the introduction of EAB is a man-made disaster, not a natural one. It is up to us to preserve these native species so they may repopulate after the killing wave of EAB has passed.

The chestnut blight of the late 19th century and the Dutch elm disease in the mid-20th century virtually eliminated those two species from our woodlands and streetscapes. We have the opportunity to keep that from happening again with our native ashes.

What’s the treatment?

A special insecticide is injected into holes drilled near ground level and kills emerald ash borers as it’s drawn upward. The insecticide used in this program (Emamectin benzoate) is safe for pollinators like honey bees (not a neonicotinoid). Save our Ash Trees! will focus on areas of the state that have not already been decimated by the emerald ash borer. 

How bad is the problem?

Millions of mature ash trees have already been killed in Indiana, and the mortality rate is expected to hit 95 percent in the next decade. Projected economic losses to urban forests are estimated to be $10-20 billion. The U.S. Forest Service projects that all eight billion ash trees in American forests will die off unless protected against the emerald ash borer.



(4) comments


Thank you, obviously I made a wrong assumption.


FYI I have been trimming and removing trees for two decades. Emerald ash borers will also invade remaining elm trees. I have removed several elm that had the revealing trails under the bark


Most likely that is elm bark beetle


Ash Borer begins to show up in Indianapolis, and suddenly they are interested. Where was the preservation effort in 2004 when we found it in the northern counties?

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