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UT experiments with way to eradicate Emerald Ash Borer using another insect

11:21 PM, Oct 24, 2012   |    comments
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University of Tennessee entomologists said one way to decrease the number of Emerald Ash Borers is to fight fire with fire.

The foreign insect is notorious for cutting off the water supplies in ash trees' trunks.  Dozens of trees in 17 East Tennessee counties are already dead from the bug, and experts said it is only spreading.

"It's a very devastating forest pest of ash across the Eastern U.S." said Greg Wiggins, an entomologist with U.T.

On Wednesday, the entomology department at the university set up 20-foot tall tents over a number of infected trees where the E.A.B. is currently found. Also inside these tents are two small species of wasps, the Spathius agrilli and Agrilus planipennis, insects known for killing the borer.

"See how well these establish and see if we can use methodologies to see if we can distribute the natural enemies in new areas where we can find the Emerald Ash Borer," Wiggins said.

Four testing sites will experiment these bugs on trees: Louisville, Friendsville, Tazewell, and Cowen Park in West Knox County. It was tested with success in Michigan where E.A.B. was first discovered domestically in the 1990s. Wiggins hopes that is true in Tennessee.

"Doing studies to see if the natural enemies released in the northern climate are suitable to the southern climates, where Emerald As Borer is also new," Wiggins added.

The experiment will take weeks, even months, to complete, but Wiggins said if successful, releasing these bugs into the wild could eradicate E.A.B. naturally.

Even though they are considered "wasps," these new insects do not sting humans.

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