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Emerald Ash Borers’ Steal Bases Against Louisville Slugger

November 9, 2016

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Leah Bauer, USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, Bugwood.org

Wood from white ash trees makes up a majority of Louisville Slugger’s baseball bats and have been for many years. Parent company Hillerich & Bradsby Co. has unwillingly sought other options as a result of the decline in white ash trees in the New York and Pennsylvania area due to the invasive emerald ash borer (EAB).

 

Emerald ash borers are an invasive species discovered in 2002 near Detroit, Michigan, and have since spread. The spread is largely caused by the transportation of firewood within and between states. As the name states, the insects have a beautiful metallic emerald green coloring, but looks can be deceiving. This wood-hungry insect has been noted to eat all varieties of ash trees in North America.

The insects feed on ash trees where they then lay their eggs inside the bark. During the summer months, the eggs will hatch and the larvae will eat the tree from the inside out, starving it from water and proper nutrients. When the borers emerge from the tree they leave behind a D-shaped hole, a tell-tale sign of emerald ash borers. Another indicator is an abundance of woodpeckers who are fond of the EAB in the larval stage.

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Kenneth R. Law, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org

As a result of the decline in white ash trees, the Hillerich & Bradsby Co. has looked into alternatives to their most popular wood, including maple and yellow birch. While these don’t mimic the exact strength and flexibility of the white ash tree, they will have to do for the time being. Athletes like Tim Tebow have already made the switch to a maple wood bat, which doesn’t seem to affect his ability to hit home runs. While others like recently retired Derek Jeter used a white ash bat his entire career.

America’s favorite pastime isn’t the only thing in jeopardy local trees in states where the beetle is established are at risk. Densely populated areas could be riddled with stumps by the time the borer has struck that area.

While the emerald ash borer is not in Florida yet, it’s important to “Burn It Where You Buy It,” a slogan by the Don’t Move Firewood campaign that notes the importance of not transporting firewood. Wood can be infested even if there aren’t any visible signs. If you are interested in the Don’t Move Firewood Campaign please check out their website for more information.

If you suspect you have a tree that may be infested, please contact your local extension office.

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