Extremely low temperatures that swept the upper Midwest jeopardized people, animals, and many trees, shrubs, and plants. Another result that tree experts are debating is the impact of this polar vortex on Emerald Ash Borers that have such a devastating, sometimes fatal, impact on Midwest Ash trees.
The debate pertains to whether the extreme cold helped the trees by killing off these insects or whether the cold had little impact on their population.
What is the Emerald Ash Borer?
While the adult beetle itself ingests exterior foliage, it does little damage. The larvae, however, chow down on the inner bark of the ash trees, disrupting the normal flow of water and nutrients, and can eventually kill off the tree.
So, the question is: even though there is much optimism among some experts, did this recent period of brutal, sub-zero weather kill off the existing Emerald Ash Borer larvae population enough to save the Midwest Ash population?
Did the 2019 Polar Vortex Actually Kill the Larvae?
Several reports in recent weeks have extolled the possibility that the extreme weather may have killed a major portion of the larvae. Since winter conditions in the Midwest during the past decade have been warmer than average, these borers have thrived. Some believe that the -20º weather may have killed the larvae and slow their spread.
However, the fact that the larvae reside beneath the bark layer, even the recent cold may not have been sufficient enough to penetrate this insulating cover to kill them.
According to Arborjet®, a significant drop in temperature can kill the Emerald Ash Borer larvae. Experts agree that the larvae are most at risk when temperatures drop suddenly from mild to very cold.
However, in the recent instance, the average temperatures were already low and simply dropped further. In these instances, the larvae may have already transitioned and adapted to cold temperature survival and may continue to thrive even in the below-zero conditions.
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