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The U.S. Forest Service is sniffing out Emerald Ash Borers

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E-Nose
Device used to detect Emerald Ash Borer infestations.
EAB Web 1
Damage from the Emerald Ash Borer.
EAB Plasma
Paths eaten by larvae.
EAB Web 3
Emerald Ash Borer exit hole.

DAHLGREN (WSIL) -- The U.S. Forest Service is using technology to better detect an elusive invasive species.

"It's a very small beetle," notes U.S. Forest Service Research Pathologist, Dan Wilson.

David Johnson, a retired IDNR Forester says, "It's a little thing, maybe about half or five eigths of an inch long."

The Emerald Ash Borer's larvae eats through the tissue of Ash trees, just beneath the bark.

"And so when this happens, the tree has a hard time surviving because basically it's like cutting your arteries and veins in your body," says Wilson.

Johnson says the tree tries, but usually never recovers.

"And as the top of that tree gets all of it's circulation cut off by those bugs eating in there, it will start putting out sprouts down low trying to regain a crown, so you'll see a tree with a dead top, and sprouts down low."

Recently, the Emerald Ash Borer has been the focus of a device called an E-Nose. Short for Electronic Nose, the technology has been around for years, but has just recently been used to detect infestations of the invasive insect.

"This is an instrument that allows you to smell the volatile compounds which we call volatile organic compounds or VOC's that are released from any living substance," says Wilson.

Researchers have found that infested trees and healthy trees, both give off very different VOC's, meaning early detection of an infestation is possible. In fact, it can salvage the tree's lumber value, or just preserve some shade in your yard.

Johnson lives near Dahlgren and says it's likely too late for most Ash trees in southern Illinois.

"You inject an insecticide into the tree, there are people that do that. If you haven't done it already, and you're in southern Illinois, you're probably too late... If you've got these trees dying on your place and you burn wood, cut them this year. Get them split, in the barn where they can dry, because if you leave them standing, they're going to rot. Ash will rot real quick if you leave it on the stump,"

Researchers say there's even some evidence that suggest they can detect VOC's from tree leaves as well. They say this would save time over the current method of testing bark.

John Ross

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