With its metallic-green shell and wings, the emerald ash borer looks almost like a smaller version of a brooch your great-grandmother pinned to her lapel. But it’s not a decoration—it’s a killer. The beetle lays its eggs inside ash trees, producing voracious larvae that deplete their hosts of the water and nutrients they need to survive.
Initially detected in Michigan in 2002—a suspected stowaway in wooden packing crates arriving from its native Asia—the borer showed up the following year in Fairfax County, Virginia. In the ensuing decade and a half, it has spread across the northeast, destroying tens of millions of ash trees. A major infestation this summer in Richmond and Henrico County moved the state to issue a quarantine, that is, a prohibition against moving ash firewood across county lines or bringing it in from out of state.
“By not moving the firewood, we’re actually reducing possible exposure to the insect,” says Lara Johnson, a program manager with the Virginia Department of Forestry. “If there’s a valuable ash tree in your yard, you should get it treated.”
Pesticides are available online, at garden centers, or in big-box stores. But Johnson recommends hiring arborists to do the job, because, as certified applicators, they have both the expertise and access to more concentrated treatments. She adds that introducing a systemic remedy before or very shortly after exposure is much more successful than trying to save an infested tree.
A less prevalent but potentially much more destructive non-native species, the spotted lanternfly, sparked a quarantine order this summer in Frederick County and the City of Winchester, about 100 miles north of Charlottesville. Indigenous to China, India, and Vietnam, this planthopper (it has wings as an adult but moves mostly by crawling and jumping) was first discovered in the U.S. in 2014, and now also lives in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. It eats more than 70 species, including stone-fruit trees like peaches and plums, as well as apples, grapes, and hops.
Recognizing the threat to Virginia’s wine, beer, cider, and fruit yields, the VDOF and Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services undertook an aggressive eradication program that started in May and runs until October 31. Elaine Lidholm of the VDACS says crews hit the lanternfly’s favorite roost, the tree of heaven, with a chemical herbicide and insecticide, and followed up with bioinsecticide applications. “Treatments will likely be repeated,” she says.
Lidholm advises that anyone who finds one (or more) of the critters outside of Winchester or Frederick County should capture a specimen and send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The sample needs to be submitted for identification and verification,” Lidholm says.
If that sounds like a hassle, just imagine your life without Virginia-made beer, wine, cider, and peaches. See? We knew you’d understand—and help out if you can.
Recognizing the threat to Virginia’s wine, beer, cider, and fruit yields, the VDOF and Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services undertook an aggressive lanternfly eradication program that started in May and runs until October 31.