The natural range of Agrilus planipennis, or the emerald ash borer, is eastern Russia, northern China, Japan, and Korea. Before June of 2002, it had never been found in North America.
We don't know for sure, but it most likely came in ash wood used for stabilizing cargo in ships or for packing or crating heavy consumer products.
In North America, it has only been found in ash trees. Trees in woodlots as well as landscaped areas are affected. Larval galleries have been found in trees or branches measuring as little as 1-inch in diameter. All species of North American ash appear to be susceptible.
In 2002, EAB was thought to occur in six counties in southeastern Michigan: Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne, and in Essex County Ontario. The ability to detect and find EAB has substantially improved since then. In addition to Michigan, it is now found in Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Ontario and Quebec, making EAB an international pest problem. Many of these infestations are not new; the ability to find infestations has improved as survey methods improve. However, it is important to watch for signs and symptoms of EAB in non-quarantine areas where the beetle may have been accidentally transported in ash firewood.
The canopy of infested trees begins to thin above infested portions of the trunk and major branches because the borer destroys the water and nutrient conducting tissues under the bark. Heavily infested trees exhibit canopy die-back usually starting at the top of the tree. One-third to one-half of the branches may die in one year. Most of the canopy will be dead within 2 years of when symptoms are first observed. Sometimes ash trees push out sprouts from the trunk after the upper portions of the tree dies. Although difficult to see, the adult beetles leave a "D"-shaped exit hole in the bark, roughly 1/8 inch in diameter, when they emerge in June.
Recent research shows that the beetle can have a one- or two-year life cycle. Adults begin emerging in mid to late May with peak emergence in late June. Females usually begin laying eggs about 2 weeks after emergence. Eggs hatch in 1-2 weeks, and the tiny larvae bore through the bark and into the cambium - the area between the bark and wood where nutrient levels are high. The larvae feed under the bark for several weeks, usually from late July or early August through October. The larvae typically pass through four stages, eventually reaching a size of roughly 1 to 1.25 inches long. Most EAB larvae overwinter in a small chamber in the outer bark or in the outer inch of wood. Pupation occurs in spring and the new generation of adults will emerge in May or early June, to begin the cycle again. View the EAB life cycle.
We know EAB adults can fly at least 1/2 mile from the tree where they emerge. Many infestations, however, were started when people moved infested ash nursery trees, logs, or firewood into uninfested areas. Shipments of ash nursery trees and ash logs with bark are now regulated, and transporting firewood outside of the quarantined areas is illegal, but transport of infested firewood remains a problem. PLEASE - do not move any ash firewood or logs outside of the quarantined area.
Research has shown that EAB was infesting ash trees 10 to 12 years before its initial discovery in 2002. The initial infestation probably started from a small number of beetles. Over the next few years, the population began to build and spread. By 2002, many trees in southeastern Michigan were dead or dying. In North America, native ash trees have little or no resistance to EAB and natural enemies have so far had little effect when EAB populations are high.
Healthy ash trees are also susceptible, although beetles may prefer to lay eggs or feed on stressed trees. When EAB populations are high, small trees may die within 1-2 years of becoming infested and large trees can be killed in 3-4 years.
Many agencies and universities are working together to educate citizens about identification of ash trees and EAB and options for protecting valuable shade trees. State and federal agencies have programs in place to help restore the urban forest in cities that sustained heavy EAB damage. Research is underway to learn more about the biology of EAB, its rate of spread, methods for EAB detection, predators and other natural enemies that may attack EAB, and how insecticides can be used to protect trees in infested areas.
EAB is now considered the most destructive forest pest ever seen in North America. The scope of this problem will reach the billions of dollars nationwide if not dealt with. State and federal agencies have made this problem a priority. Homeowners can also help by carefully monitoring their ash trees for signs and symptoms of EAB throughout the year.
Contact your county Extension office or the nearest Department of Agriculture office. You may also contact the USDA Emerald Ash Borer Hotline toll-free at (866) 322-4512.
This fact sheet was updated by Dr. Deborah McCullough and Robin Usborne, Michigan State University, June 2016.