QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT THE EMERALD ASH BORER
What is the emerald ash borer?
As described by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the emerald ash borer (EAB) is a very small beetle that is destructive to ash trees, including northern white ash that for decades has been the wood of choice for professional grade baseball bats. Metallic green in color, the EAB measures ½ inch long and 1/8 inch wide. The average adult emerald ash borer fits easily on a penny.
The EAB is native to China and eastern Asia. It is believed to have arrived in North America hidden in wood packing materials commonly used to ship consumer goods. While no one can say for certain when the EAB arrived in the U.S., it was first discovered in southeastern Michigan in 2002. However, it is believed that the beetle may have actually arrived in the U.S. up to 12 years earlier.
The EAB is blamed for the death or decline of more than 15 million ash trees in a 20-county area surrounding Detroit. The EAB has also been discovered to have affected trees in Ontario, Canada near Detroit as well as northeastern Indiana, northern Ohio, western Pennsylvania, parts of Maryland and Virginia.
What effect or impact does the EAB have on the baseball bat industry and MLB players?
At this point there has been no impact on the bat industry or MLB. The insect has not reached the area along the Pennsylvania/New York border where Louisville Slugger harvests trees to make baseball bats. However, there is reason for serious concern. The EAB was discovered in western Pennsylvania in the summer of 2007, about 100 miles from where we harvest wood for MLB bats.
Louisville Slugger’s timber division is working closely with the USDA and the state department of agriculture in Pennsylvania, and other states, to monitor the situation as these government agencies try to stop the spread of the emerald ash borer. Fortunately, because of the efforts in western Pennsylvania, the EAB has not migrated more than a few miles beyond the original location of its discovery there.
What if the EAB cannot be stopped and the ash trees used to make Major League Baseball bats are all destroyed?
Louisville Slugger is confident that the spread of the EAB has been contained. However, in the event the worst case scenario would become reality, i.e., the destruction of northern white ash trees in the Pennsylvania/New York border area, the company is prepared to use alternative sources of timber for MLB bats. Our company is always looking at other species of wood for potentially making baseball bats. This is something we have done for many years and will continue to do so. In addition to ash, we make bats from maple and have also manufactured some in recent years from beech. Hickory and oak were also used 70-80 years ago, but were found to not be conducive to making baseball bats. Other species of wood are being studied and tested for possible use in baseball bats, including species of beech.
What can the public do to help stop the spread of the EAB?
Quite simply, DON’T MOVE FIREWOOD! The USDA says moving firewood spreads unwanted pests. Firewood in the affected regions could contain the emerald ash borer and other tree-killing insects and diseases. Moving firewood threatens our landscape and forests. When it comes to firewood, cut or buy local and burn local. Do not move firewood across county or state lines. The dissemination of messages to not move firewood and the public’s heeding of it have prevented the spread of the EAB in the area where our timber is harvested.
Click on the thumbnails below to see a larger image of the Emerald Ash Borer.
©Hillerich & Bradsby Co. 2007