15 October 2007
Virginia Cooperative Extension, Charlottesville/Albemarle County Office
460 Stagecoach Road, Charlottesville, Virginia 22902
phone: 434.872.4580 fax: 434.872.4578
If you watch baseball this time of year you may have been entertained by the insect invasion of the Cleveland baseball stadium by midges on Friday October 5th. These midge invaders were not really harming anyone but they were annoying enough to cause some bad pitches. A bigger problem for baseball would be if the ash trees they use to make bats were chewed up by insects and that, unfortunately, is a real possibility. A relatively recent invader from Asia, the Emerald Ash Borer, is already established in Michigan and could potentially spread to areas of the country where ash trees are common and cause significant damage.
In Virginia ash trees are not as prevalent as in the Midwest but many of us still have them in our neighborhood woods and landscapes. Other significant tree chewing insects such as the Asian Longhorned Beetle and the Sirex woodwasp are potentially very damaging to other tree species and would be a bigger problem to our maple, willow, elm, pine, and birch trees among others if they were to find their way to our state and our neighborhoods. As a result we non baseball bat producers and users are also concerned about a potential insect invasion. We actually had a scare along these lines in 2003 when the Emerald Ash Borer was discovered in northern Virginia. The resulting eradication of this beetle required 238 ash trees within a one-half mile area of the suspected infestation site to be removed and incinerated.
So far we in Virginia have been spared further damage by these pests but they are established in parts of the U.S. and some states have regulations and quarantines associated with them and the plants and materials they infest. It is enough of a concern for us to spend some time thinking about how we can prevent these insects from becoming a problem. One way is to plant a diversity of trees and less host trees so there are less opportunities for pests to spread rapidly. Another way is to think about the ways these insects get into our environments.
One of the ways these insects are transported is in firewood. The insects in question are often found and transported across borders and state lines in dead wood disguised as packing material, pallets, and logs for the fire. This being the season for people to start using firewood it is a good thing to remember. This means being careful not to take firewood into camp sites from out of the area and to buy local if you are purchasing wood for your fireplace at home. This may be easier for folks in central Virginia than it is in northern Virginia where trucks full of firewood are being delivered from outside the area on a regular basis. State parks often have firewood for sale and buying your firewood on site is nice way to support these often under funded public resources.
For more information about these and other invasive pests please check the many internet resources available starting with the U.S. Forest Service at www.fs.fed.us/r8/foresthealth and the USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service at www.aphis.usda.gov/plant_health/plant_pest_info/.
Virginia Cooperative Extension is offering Master Gardener Volunteer training in Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, and Louisa counties in 2008. Please contact your local Extension office for more information or to register for these classes.
For more information about this and other landscape topics contact your local Virginia Cooperative Extension office. The local Virginia Cooperative Extension office numbers are Albemarle 872-4580, Fluvanna 591-1950, Greene 985-5236, Louisa 540-967-3422, and Nelson 263-4035.