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Bugs enlisted to battle borer

The U.S. Forest Service plans to release tiny wasps in North Evanston this week to battle the Emerald Ash Borer, which is blamed for killing 2,000 ash trees in Evanston since 2006.


The U.S. Forest Service plans to release tiny wasps in North Evanston this week to battle the Emerald Ash Borer, which is blamed for killing 2,000 ash trees in Evanston since 2006.

Officials say the wasps, Oobius agrili, are about the size of a poppy seed or sesame seed and do not harm humans or other animals.

But they search the bark of ash trees for ash borer eggs or larvae. They use them as food and protection for their own eggs, consuming the borers before they can develop to their adult stage. The wasps are adapted to controlling ash borer populations in their native range of China.

“This Emerald Ash Borer biocontrol effort is Evanston’s chance to be on the leading edge of the research effort to find a way to slow the spread of this destructive pest,” said Paul D’Agostino, Superintendent of Evanston’s Parks/Forestry Division.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service says the Emerald Ash Borer is a non-native beetle discovered in southeastern Michigan in 2002. The adults nibble on ash foliage but cause little damage; it is their larvae that cause the devastation. The larvae feed on the inner bark of ash trees, disrupting the tree’s ability to transport water and nutrients, eventually killing the tree.

The borer arrived in the United States from Asia. Since its discovery, it has killed tens of millions of ash trees in southeastern Michigan alone, with tens of millions more lost throughout Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin, as well as in Quebec and Ontario, Canada.

The Forest Service has conducted extensive research on Oobius agrili and has previously released the species at research sites in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Maryland.

“I believe that the potential benefits of this effort far outweigh the risks, based on all the research performed thus far. The potential devastation of the EAB is enormous if we cannot find some way to suppress its populations soon,” D’Agostino added.

The project to release the bugs is being funded by the federal government.

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