Woodpeckers and nuthatches help in the fight against emerald ash borer

You may have already heard about the emerald ash borer (EAB). It’s an invasive beetle, meaning it’s not native to our region and it has devastating effects on our environment. Originally from Asia, EAB is spreading throughout southern Ontario, into the Credit River watershed, killing North American ash trees. EAB infects and kills 99.9 per cent of all native ash trees, including green ash, white ash, black ash and others.

EAB in Rattray Marsh Conservation Area

Over the past decade, EAB have migrated north-east into southern Ontario from the Detroit-Windsor area. EAB are capable of flying for many kilometres before landing in new areas with ash trees. They are attracted to Rattray Marsh Conservation Area because ash trees make up a significant portion of the local tree cover. These ash trees are important for the local environment and are now at risk.

EAB lay their eggs on ash bark during summer. Larvae burrow into the tree and consume the tree from the inside, disrupting its internal flow of water and nutrients, eventually causing death. Fortunately, bark-foraging birds such as woodpeckers and nuthatches appear to play a role in reducing EAB numbers, slowing their spread and offering more time to consider management options. These birds have been spotted at Rattray Marsh.

In a recent study from Ohio, researchers found that roughly 37 per cent of the EAB larvae in a sample of 46 trees were eaten by bark-foraging birds. Researchers at Cornell University and the U.S. Forest Service found that the populations of red-bellied woodpecker and white-breasted nuthatch increased significantly in areas of southern Michigan heavily infested with EAB when compared to less impacted areas.

Our feathered friends are helping us fight EAB, but we cannot expect them to solve the problem entirely on their own. This summer, Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) will be inoculating healthy trees against the effects of EAB or removing trees that cannot be saved. Inoculating trees is dependent on tree health. Unhealthy trees or trees with signs of decline may not be able to be saved. Also, inoculations are costly and CVC can only treat a small number of ash trees.

Save Our Ash - Donate Now

CVC is calling on everyone who visits Rattray Marsh to do what they can to save our ash. Give today to help preserve our beautiful ash trees for years to come. Your gift will be used to inoculate ash trees at Rattray Marsh and plant new trees for the future.

Scroll to Top