May 24-30 has been declared Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week in North Dakota, and the Department of Agriculture and Forest Service are hoping to stop what may well be a future disaster for the state’s trees. But what is an Emerald Ash Borer, why is it such a danger, and what can we do to stop it from coming to the state?

The Emerald Ash Borer originally hails from Asia, and while we don’t have an exact understanding of how they managed to come to the U.S. in droves, it’s believed that they first emigrated by accidentally stowing away in wood products shipped overseas.

The primary way these insects pose a threat to trees is by raising their young in them. Emerald Ash Borers have been known to lay up to 100 eggs at a time in the bark and root systems of ash trees. These offspring then drain the trees of their nutrients, resulting in the complete death of a tree in a year or two.

With all the fuss about the new invasive species, it makes one wonder why so much alarm is being raised over this one type of insect.  North Dakota is no stranger to boring beetles, though — in fact, we have a few already in the state, like Honeysuckle or Bronze Birch boring beetles. So, what is it that makes the Emerald Ash Borer so much more dangerous?

Boring beetles that are currently in the state have already been noted by the state agricultural department and with them mainly being native species, the primary way to stave off boring is to avoid planting the trees that the different insects specialize in devouring. Minimizing the production of these trees has helped to fight off the native predators, but this same strategy becomes a problem when dealing with the new invasive species. The ash trees that take up most of our parks and forests just so happen to be the favorite food of Emerald Ash Borers — and if left to spread, could consume a majority of the trees in North Dakota in a matter of years.

One other difficulty in battling the borers comes from a lack of natural predators that would be in the area: woodpeckers have been seen to eat Emerald Ash Borers, but by the time they arrive in a feeding ground, the bugs have already spread and multiplied faster than the birds can eat.

The most important thing to note is that at the time of publication, the Emerald Ash Borer has not yet been identified in North Dakota — but they have been sighted in thirty states. Locations include Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

While it seems impossible to stop a swarm of insects aiming to cross into the state, the reason for concern isn’t the insects themselves: Emerald Ash Borers actually move very slowly on their own, with adults being recorded to travel less than a mile a year on foot. Unfortunately, the Emerald Ash Borers themselves aren’t the ones behind the migration.

The most common way these beetles travel across state borders is actually through human interaction: specifically, the movement of firewood. As we bring kindling into new states, there’s a chance it might bring along some unexpected guests in the form of the Ash-tree-eating assailants. Thanks to this transport method, the ND departments of agriculture and forestry are urgently calling for citizens to cease all purchase and delivery of firewood from out of state to help staunch the possibility of the bugs entering North Dakota.

But, as the agricultural and forestry divisions are hoping you remember, that you don’t need to leave the state in search of good firewood: apps like Firewood Finder can help locate local wood suppliers.

For those who are concerned about the possibility of Emerald Ash Borers in their own homes, the Department of Agriculture states that rangers and pest control specialists are always available to take house calls for inspections.