Connecticut in the Midst of an Insect War

Connecticut released more than 13,000 parasitoid wasps this summer to fight against the emerald ash borer (pictured). (wikipedia photo)

So far, the parasitoid wasps look like the best chance to save our ash trees.

Emerald ash borers were first spotted in Connecticut in Prospect, in July 2012. The little green buggers have now spread to at least eight other Connecticut towns.

Just last week, federal experts in the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service issued an expanded EAB quarantine order that prohibits anyone from moving ash logs and lumber, ash nursery stock, and other hardwood firewood out of Fairfield, Litchfield and Hartford Counties. (The original quarantine order only covered New Haven County.)

The reason for the quarantine is that shipments of wood products, particularly firewood, are the way EAB spreads fastest.

"The infestation grows at about one mile a year," explains Rutledge, "but it grows a lot faster if it's in the back of a pickup truck."

In China and other parts of Asia, native ash trees have evolved defenses to limit the damage from emerald ash borers. Our North American ash forests have no such natural anti-EAB systems.

"We're fighting an uphill battle," says Rutledge, "because the trees aren't helping."

The war to stop the emerald ash borer is going to last for a long time, and it may be years before we know how successful our wasp assassins can be. "Biocontrol is a slow burn," says Rutledge. "You have to wait a while to see if it's working."

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