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Birds As EAB Indicators

Posted on May 20, 2015

Being small in size as an adult and hidden underneath tree bark as larvae, Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) can be rather difficult for humans to detect. For bark-foraging birds such as woodpeckers however, this is not a difficult task.  As these birds move up and down a tree’s trunk and branches, they listen for larvae chewing on the wood and can even feel vibrations from the larvae moving through the galleries they create. Once detected, woodpeckers will hammer away at the bark in order to collect the larvae beneath. While the larvae is removed from the bark, a hole and missing bark around the area the woodpecker worked will remain. For humans, these woodpecker holes and lighter colored bark around the hole is much easier to see. If an ash tree has heavy woodpecker activity and the tree itself doesn’t look so hot, that is a good indicator that EAB might be present. Although woodpeckers do a great service by eating EAB larvae, they don’t make a large enough dent in the population to completely take care of them on their own. But being aware of their signs they leave behind can help humans detect Emerald Ash Borer before its too late.

Emerald Ash Borer Woodpeckering and crown die-off

Elyse Henshaw
Conservation Technician