Polar vortex could knock back emerald ash borer, says US pest expert

Emerald ash borer - image:USDAgov
Emerald ash borer - image:USDAgov

The deep freeze affecting central North America could provide a respite in the spread of the devastating emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis).

Robert Venette, a US Department of Agriculture research biologist based at the University of Minnesota, has been researching the effect of the cold on the destructive tree pests.

"It's around minus 20 [Fahrenheit, or -28°C] that things get really interesting - roughly half of the larvae will die," he said. "Once the temperature is -30 [-34°C], there's a 90 percent mortality rate."

The beetle is likely to spread into central Minnesota, threatening the midwest state's one billion ash trees - an outcome Venette described as "economically and ecologically devastating".

But with a reprieve brought by the cold snap, "communities have more time to find those infested trees and get them removed," he added.

Emerald ash borer was first discovered in the US in 2002 and has since spread to 22 states. It first appeared in European Russia in 2007 and is thought be advancing westwards at 30-40km a year.

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