Chances are you are desperate if you have ash trees in your yard and recently discovered that emerald ash borers (EAB) have made it their home. What will it take to get rid of these tree-killing machines? Before you take steps to eliminate your local emerald ash borer population, you may wonder if the cold weather is enough to kill them off.
Will the Cold Weather Kill Emerald Ash Borer?
What Are Emerald Ash Borers?
Emerald ash borers are small beetles with elongated bodies and beautiful, deep green, and glittery armor. The scientific name for these invasive critters is Agrilus planipennis, and they are often called EAB for short.
As stunning as EAB are, these beetles do so much damage to ash trees that they’ve been called “the wildfire of the east.” That’s because these beetles lay their eggs underneath ash bark, where the larvae feed on the wood before finding their way out in D-shaped exit holes.
Emerald ash borers are native to Russia, China, Korea, and Japan. Yet, in their native regions, their damage is limited. EAB infestations are better known for wreaking havoc on ash trees indigenous to the United States and Europe. In fact, they have become gardeners’ and arborists’ worst nightmares. Interestingly, emerald ash borers pose more of a threat to urban ash trees than those in rural areas.
Does Cold Weather Kill Emerald Ash Borers?
East Russia — where it gets very cold — is part of these critters’ native playgrounds. When emerald ash borer larvae grow in an environment that gradually grows colder over time, they can cope with extremely cold temperatures perfectly fine. Emerald ash borers can survive temperatures as cold as -13˚F (-25˚C), so long as they have had a chance to get used to the frost.
Emerald ash borer larvae growing in warmer conditions that become cold overnight don’t do so well, on the other hand. While more than 90 percent of larvae acclimatized to freezing conditions survive a heavy frost, only five percent stay alive when a cold snap (freezing weather) arrives suddenly.
The duration of freezing weather also matters. If a frost persists for 24 hours or longer, more larvae die as compared to on-again and off-again frosts.
So, does cold weather kill the emerald ash borer? It’s a simple question, but the answer is complicated:
- It depends on how cold the weather gets.
- It depends on how long the weather stays cold.
- It depends on whether emerald ash borer larvae have had a chance to get used to cold weather over time.
In short, it’s possible – but don’t count on it.
What Can You Do to Kill Emerald Ash Borers?
More effective ways to control emerald ash borer infestations include:
- Having a professional pest control company near you treat the infested trees with pesticides known to kill emerald ash borers.
- Attempting to control the insect by means of biological control, such as introducing woodpeckers to the area.
- Having the ash tree(s) in question cut down.
It is interesting to note that some ash trees are resistant to emerald ash borer infestations. These include Spathius galinae, Oobius agile, and Spathius agile. If you live in an area with emerald ash borer activity and you want to plant ash trees, consider these species.
What Should You Do if You Think Emerald Ash Borers Have Infested Your Ash Trees?
Emerald ash borers kill off millions of trees every year. Don’t hope that a polar vortex event will kill them. Instead, be proactive about their management. Consult a local arborist who can assess the tree and help you make a treatment plan. Chemical treatment is usually the first step, often with great success.
Additional Information: Did the Polar Vortex and its Freezing Temperatures Wipe out the Emerald Ash Borer? (USDA)
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