Emerald Ash Borer May Have Spread to Different Tree

The emerald ash borer, which is destroying ash trees in a large swath of the nation, has apparently spread to a different tree, according to a researcher at Wright State University. Professor Don Cipollini has found that the invasive green beetle has apparently begun to attack white fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus).

White fringetree is native to the United States and grows wild from New Jersey south to Florida and west to Oklahoma and Texas. It is also a popular ornamental tree that has been planted in other parts of the country.

“It appears that emerald ash borer is eating more than ash trees,” Cipollini said. “It may have a wider host range than we ever thought in the first place, or it is adapting to utilize new hosts. This biological invasion is really something to worry about. It’s having drastic ecological and economic consequences, and you can’t always predict what’s going to happen.”

Native to Asia, emerald ash borer was introduced to the United States near Detroit in 2002. It is believed to have been in ash wood used to stabilize crates during shipping.

So far, the insect has spread in all directions, killed tens of millions of ash trees and threatens to kill most of the 8.7 billion ash trees throughout North America. It is estimated that the borer will have caused $10 billion in economic damage by 2019.

The borers attack trees by laying eggs on the bark. The serpentine feeding galleries of the larvae inside the bark disrupt the flow of nutrients and water and starve the tree.

There are efforts to try to save ash trees from the borer. Pesticides can be injected into the trunk or poured into the soil around the tree and taken up by the roots. And there have been releases of parasitoid wasps.

“But it’s hard to stop this thing because the borer has reached such high densities,” Cipollini said. “And it is now spreading to parts of the country where white fringetree grows.”

White fringetree, a relative of ash, is a deciduous shrub or small tree that can grow up to 30 feet tall. It has white flowers and a purple, olive-like fruit. It is known for its relative lack of pest and disease problems and has never been reported as a host to wood borers related to emerald ash borer.

Cipollini, who has studied emerald ash borer for nearly 10 years, has been working with colleagues to come up with new strains of ash trees that would be resistant to the insect. With colleagues and students, he has co-authored seven publications on the insect, with several others in review or preparation.

He discovered that borers were also attacking white fringetree in August when he acted on a hunch.

Cipollini was examining some white fringetrees that had been planted by the Yellow Springs Tree Committee near his home in the southwestern Ohio village when he spotted a telltale borer exit hole with the characteristic “D” shape on one of the trees.

“I walked up to the tree, saw the hole right in front of my eyes and said, ‘Oh my gosh, there it is,’” he recalled.

He got permission from the committee to peel back the bark, discovered what appeared to be the typical feeding gallery of emerald ash borer and determined that attacks on this tree had begun at least two years earlier. He later found similar infestations in another white fringetree in Yellow Springs, one at Cox Arboretum in Dayton and one at Ferncliff Cemetery in Springfield.

Cipollini collected the larvae, took them back to his lab and put them under the microscope. The larvae were consistent with those of emerald ash borer — from the bifurcation of the pronotal groove to the abdominal segments becoming increasingly trapezoidal.

“Based on the larval morphology alone, I’m confident that this will turn out to be emerald ash borer,” he said. “There was a good paper that was published two years ago describing the physical characteristics of emerald ash borer larvae, and this meets those that I can determine. If it turns out not to be emerald ash borer, it has to be a close relative and likely non-native. And so it would still be a concern for the same reasons as emerald ash borer.”

Later Cipollini was able to exhume part of a dead adult beetle from the tree that failed to emerge two years ago. This specimen also exhibits key characteristics of adult emerald ash borer, he said.

He then sent photos of the larvae and a larval specimen to experts at the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Cipollini was told the larvae in the photos appeared to match those of emerald ash borer. The same is being done with the adult specimen in order to confirm its identity.

APHIS, which investigates invasive species that impact agriculture, horticulture and forestry, would be the agency that would quarantine white fringetree to try to control the spread of the borer.

“Wild populations of this tree, along with horticultural specimens, are now seemingly under threat like ash trees are,” Cipollini said.

Cipollini quickly wrote up a short paper on his discovery and sent it to the Journal of Economic Entomology, one of the Entomological Society of America’s main publications. The editor asked Cipollini to conduct DNA tests on the larvae to further confirm its identity, which he is currently doing. He also plans to rear additional adults from infested wood to confirm their physical characteristics.

Cipollini is scheduled to present his findings to APHIS officials and researchers at an emerald ash borer research review meeting on the Wooster campus of The Ohio State University on Oct. 15.

Cipollini said that if the emerald ash borer destroys white fringetree, the birds, insects, and other wildlife dependent on the tree’s leaves and fruit may also be threatened.

“It’s one of these unexpected consequences of biological invasions,” he said. “Even when you think you have a handle on something and you understand what it does and what it may cause, these kinds of surprises pop up.”

Cipollini said the threat to white fringetree is the latest example of the narrowing of the plant ecosystem, which provides humans with such things as fuel, water purification, and erosion control.

“It gets harder and harder for Mother Nature to handle that for us as you further and further reduce the pool of species that are present and their abundance,” he said.

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Wright State researcher finds emerald ash borer may have spread to different tree


  1. More research is needed before we start cutting new trees again. It seems like we are trying to invent a new ways of making money by hiring more city workers to cut down healthy trees just because they are ash. Come on. Should people cut a cats ear or dogs foot if we think they are in risk of infection in the future?

  2. Leslie Gilbert says:

    Surely you could have included the latin name for this tree. I assume you’re referring to Chionanthus virginicus.

  3. I don’t know where you are at Miu, but in Illinois our communities don’t have the people or the money to take down the thousands of dead ones. They aren’t at all thinking about doing anything to healthy trees. Although my village gave me $50 to help cover the cost of injecting mine, which I did and it is still healthy.

    • ecothinker says:

      what did you inject it with?

      • In the past, we have used trunk injections of imidacloprid – though have since switched to root zone soil saturation with our deep root feeding solution & imidacloprid in mid – late spring. If there is less than 60% – 50% of the canopy remaining on the tree during the growing season then we will not treat the tree because more than likely, we can not save it (unless of course the customer REALLY wants to give it a try). Getting insecticides into the tree is a treatment that needs to be done annually at first, though we will start to experiment with a series of trees we’ve been treating for a number of years to see if we can go every other year on treatment.
        *If the tree is under a severe attack of the insect, we would propose a trunk injection the first and possibly second year, then switch to soil drench method.

  4. Chris Mazzoni says:

    I have contacted my municipality regarding a poplar that is intertwined with a neighbors Ash that has borers. This poplar has the D-shaped holes and is dying from the top down. I have not seen ash borers on the tree. They have told me that they will let me know if it is in fact ash borer. I have not heard back from them yet. I am in Algonquin, Il.

  5. A few years ago, while the Emerald Ash Borer was ravaging all of the ash trees in the Detroit area, I noticed identical “D” shaped holes in the bark of a few Sassafras trees. I didn’t pull back the bark on the living Sassafras trees to try to confirm whether it was EAB, but I have always suspected that EAB might be able to also attack tree species other than ash.

  6. University of Illinois Extension newsletter discusses that the fringetrees in Ohio were under severe drought stress and were likely in decline when infested. Fraxinus and Chionanthus are in the Oleaceae family and adult EABs found a replacement host since there were so few ash. Here is the article:

  7. All the ash trees are dead in my neighborhood and now gone, while mine last year, was still healthy. I was told it’s only a matter of time. Found some bore marks, but not D shaped, have a lot of woodpeckers eating sap. I am not cutting my tree down just yet. I’ve been spraying Cedarside on my lawn and trees for years, to get rid of ticks, carried up north by robins and hatching in trees, where they nest. An expert told me years ago, no lone star ticks in northern Illinois, Right….. Since then they changed the information out there. Most people think that ticks are at ground level in tall grasses, found them on my head after cutting grass under trees with bird nests. I’m not into insecticides (only does more earthly harm) and tired of the answer always being more chemicals. Most species are becoming resistant to chemicals. Will see, time will tell.

  8. Al Dharsee says:

    I noticed bore holes in two pine trees next to dead ash trees in my yard!! Unfortunately the Markham, Ontario Canada municipality I live in don;t want to release the wasps that are the natural predators of the emerald ash borers.

    • Ricky Holmes says:

      What about the old staple msm powder to block the pharmone,and delivering bact. To the soil to fight the larvea

  9. Dave Anderson says:

    I have dozens of ash trees on my property. I cut down 6 and cut back 5. The tree’s cut back are doing better than ever. New growth etc. Does cutting them back help? Or just post pone death?

  10. I Think They Are Attacking Pine Trees In Ohio The D Hole and Sawdust around The base Of The Tree

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