The Upside Of The Bitter Cold: It Kills Bugs That Kill Trees
While many of us may prefer to never again see temperatures drop below zero like they did earlier this week across the country, the deep freeze is putting warm smiles on the faces of many entomologists.
That’s because it may have been cold enough in some areas to freeze and kill some damaging invasive species of insects, including the tree-killing emerald ash borer.
After their eggs are laid in the bark of ash trees during late summer, the larvae of these beetles start to bore. They feed on the conductive tissue, where water and nutrients go up and down the tree. In infested trees with multiple larvae, the small, white, worm-like creatures about half an inch long eat their way through the tree tissue in a squiggly S-shape, cutting off what are essentially the tree’s arteries and starving the tree branches above.
Then, they burrow into the bark for the winter, where they are somewhat vulnerable to extreme cold.
Chopping into an ash tree with a hatchet in his frigid bare hands, entomologist Tom Tiddens peels back the bark, looking for emerald ash borer larvae. Native ash trees make up 20 percent of the forested land at the Chicago Botanic Garden, where Tiddens is supervisor of plant health care. He wants to see how this tiny but devastating insect has been faring through this week’s bitter cold snap that sent temperatures to 16 degrees below zero in the Botanical Garden.
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