“March of the Emerald Ash Borer”

mixed media installation  

6’ H x  5’W  x  2.5’ D

Joan Webster-Vore

All images and text © Joan Webster-Vore, 2020. All Rights Reserved.

March of the Emerald Ash Borer

I grew up in a city on a tree-lined block with branches forming a vast canopy of leaves above the street.  When I was around 8 years old the Dutch elm tree disease arrived in our neighborhood.  It had been moving across the country from the east coast.  In one single summer week they cut down over 24 mature trees on my block, two in our front yard.  Visually, my neighborhood changed from a sea of cool green leaves to being stripped bare.  

When thinking about Iowa’s changing landscape in spring of 2019, I considered the emerald ash borer moving into Iowa from the east changing the Iowa landscape as mature, beautiful trees were and are being cut down across the state.

There are many different types of ash trees growing in Iowa.  The white ash is native to the state.  One identifying feature of ash trees is that the leaves grow opposite of each other on their stem which is different than trees where the leaves grow in an alternating pattern.  The emerald ash borer (EAB), native to north-eastern Asia, was first discovered in North America in 2002.  Since arriving, the borers have killed millions of ash trees.  The EAB is this iridescent green, winged insect that lays eggs in the bark of the trees.  When the eggs hatch, the larvae eat into the bark and create squiggly patterns underneath as they eat and grow.  This feeding on living tissue is what kills the tree.  When an adult insect emerges from under the bark it creates an identifying ‘D’, which can be seen if one looks closely.  

How the EAB arrived in North America is cause for much speculation.  Why is it invading?  What keeps it in check?  It is known that cold temperatures over extended time will kill the emerald ash borer, but as the planet warms, the EAB is moving further west and north expanding its reach.  Millions more trees will be cut down.  As I sit here writing this while staying home because of Covid-19, it’s hard not to make other comparisons of other invasive species moving across the planet changing our environment.  What is the healthy option?  What does survival look like?  What is surviving?  What does this all mean?