An emerging threat was one of the topics of discussion this weekend at the annual “Day of Insects” event at the Reiman Gardens on the Iowa State University campus. The emerald ash borer, which is slowly making its way into the ash trees of Iowa was part of a display. Entomologist Laura Jesse, wore an emerald colored sweater to show respect for the tiny Asian beetle. “Really what you can admire about the EAB is the ability or good luck to come to a completely new continent, survive the winters, get established and start reproducing and you have to admire them at least a little bit,” Jesse says.
The announcement that Jasper County is has the ninth confirmed infestation of the bug out of Iowa’s 99 counties came just a day before Saturday’s event. Iowa State University entomologist, Donald Lewis, was disappointed but not surprised by the latest confirmation. “I think of the old game whack a mole, where it just pops up in a new spot, that’s where it’s going to be forever, I think not osmotically across the state, it’s just going to pop up,” according to Lewis.
One participant hopes we have learned something. Daniel Wirth describes herself as a lifelong environmentalist. “Perhaps had we paid more attention to biological diversity when these trees were being planted we would have had a more diverse population of urban and suburban trees and not be in the position now of people are anxious to cut down every last living ash tree,” Wirth says.
Entomologist Lewis expects the ash borer’s legacy will be similar to the Dutch Elm disease. “We’ll be talking about emerald ash borer 50-60 years from now in a reflective sort of a way — we had ash trees and now we don’t, and it was a shiny green insect that caused it, and then we’ll quickly go on and talk about the next problem,” Lewis says. Natural predators include wasps and woodpeckers, but entomologist Laura Jesse says they won’t be able to keep the bug from killing off Iowa’s ash trees. Jesse says the only thing that will squash this bug, is when it runs out of food.