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Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Emerald Ash Borer

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The small Emerald Ash Borer Beetle has a justifiably bad reputation for destruction, radically deforesting neighborhoods in just a few years.

Updated: 01/03/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
The Emerald Ash Borer is one in a line of destructive tree beetles in North America. As recently as June 2002, the beetle was identified in Windsor, Ontario and in the southeast portion of the state of Michigan. In less than a decade, it became a well-known problem insect. It is native to Asia, found locally in parts of Japan, the Koreas, China, Mongolia, and Russia. A few beetles likely hitched a ride on cargo during shipping and that is when trouble on the North American continent began.

The Emerald Ash Borer is a highly invasive species, capable of populating a large area in a very short period of time. It is also highly recognizable thanks to its metallic green coloring. The insect makes no distinction between wild areas and landscaped growth, attacking the leaves and bark of the Ash tree species wherever it happens to grow.

Emerald Ash Borers (EABs) are related to native species of North American tree borers. They all share some similarities in how they feed, mate, and otherwise operate in adulthood. Adults appear in the late spring months and into early August. One generation lives per year, but it can wreak havoc in little time if left unchecked. The adults that emerge from the tree trunks leave a small, visible "D" shaped hole in the bark of the Ash tree. They proceed to feed off of the tree's foliage before mating several weeks later.

Upon mating, the female beetle can lay upwards of 50 to 100 eggs on the surface of the tree, allowing the larvae to easily begin boring into the tree once they are born. Larvae dig into the area just under the bark and continue boring tunnels while feeding on the sapwood inside the tree. This draining of tree fluids continues from the summer season into the fall. The death of the tree is caused by dehydration and starvation. The small tunnels block or destroy the xylem in the tree trunk which allows water to move up the tree. Ash trees that are infected and impaired will have seasons where only a few branch clusters grow leaves, while other parts are bare. Suffering Ash trees will try to grow new shoots from the base of their trunks in an effort to stay alive.

Ash trees offer a tremendous amount of natural beauty to neighborhoods. They are an important part of the temperate forest ecosystem and are harvested for use. Targeting the larvae is instrumental in stopping the spread of the Emerald Ash Borer, and the only known solution to stop them is the removal and destruction of all infected trees. This usually results in an entire neighborhood's treescape changing because Ash trees were popular decades ago in urban and suburban planning. In many places, this species alone was planted for miles. Now block after block loses shade and character in an effort to stem infestations.

Quarantines of known infected areas and trees is currently ongoing throughout many states and provinces. It is thought that the presence of Woodpeckers might be an indication of infestation because Woodpeckers seem enjoy hunting the larvae under the bark. At this time, the EAB feeds only on Ash trees (known as Fraxinus spp.). If you suspect your Ash tree is affected, contact your local government to have the village/city look at your tree.©InsectIdentification.org

Known Diet of the Emerald-Ash-Borer

Sapwood (Larvae); Foliage (Adult)
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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
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Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Coleoptera
        Family: Buprestidae
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          Genus: Agrilus
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            Species: planipennis

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Agrilus planipennis
Category: Beetle
Size (Adult; Length): 10mm to 13mm (0.39" to 0.51")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: green; metallic; gold
Descriptors: metallic; emerald; shiny; antennae; flying; harmful; tree pest

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 10mm (0.4in) and 13mm (0.5in)
Lo: 10mm
Md: 11.5mm
Hi: 13mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Emerald Ash Borer may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Emerald Ash Borer. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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