Northern New York Newspapers
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Thu., Oct. 8
Serving the communities of Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties, New York
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In the last several years, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has been working to pinpoint infestations of the emerald ash borer, an invasive species that kills ash trees.

Authorities have banned transporting firewood far from where it was cut, and they have pleaded with people to watch carefully for any evidence to the scourge.

It’s important to protect ash trees because we rely on them for our supply of baseball bats and shady relief from the hot summer sun.

After years of frustration and the deaths of millions of ash trees, researchers at Cornell University working with the U.S. Forest Service have discovered that red-bellied woodpeckers and white-throated nuthatches are making a meal of the half inch-long insects.

And researchers are finding that native parasitic wasps are eating on the borers’ larvae.

“They were, like, ‘Hey, wow, look at this new giant buffet just for us.’ Now folks looking at the emerald ash borer are taking notice,” Therese Poland, an insect researcher with the Forest Service, told the Wall Street Journal.

The population of red-bellied woodpeckers and nuthatches are booming as the birds are discovering a ready supply of food.

In fact, specialists are now tracking woodpecker flocks to find new areas of emerald ash borer infestation.

The discovery that nature is rising to the challenge to restore a natural balance should provide some comfort to those who worry about invasive species.

As our world’s interconnected economy becomes so intertwined, the speed of the onslaught of new bugs to infest our waters, forests and fields multiplies.

We have watched the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario cope with zebra mussels and round gobies, just two of the invasive species that have arrived in the ballast water of ships transiting the seaway from overseas.

Now we are on alert for monster Asian carp working their way toward Lake Michigan and the rest of the Great Lakes.

That researchers at Cornell are beginning to understand just what bird and insect species will feed off the emerald ash borer provides encouragement that great ash trees shading our cities from Minnesota to New York will survive and the familiar crack of a well-hit baseball flying off a white ash bat will continue to excite fans.

We know that the smallmouth bass of Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River gorge on the round gobies, while we fear the truth that the gobies can easily devastate a bass nest eating the young before they are large enough to eat the gobies.

Let’s hope that a natural correction of the goby imbalance is imminent.

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