Woodpecker damage found among Door County ash trees might be one of the first signs of a dangerous emerald ash borer (EAB) infestation. The non-native insect species was first discovered in Door County in 2014 and kill ash trees by eating the tissues under the bark. In time, this process chokes off the tree’s access to water and food. During the wintertime, larvae left behind by EAB are prime food targets for woodpeckers, which may further damage the bark of a tree to pick at what is underneath. The combination of lost tissues and damaged bark can kill an ash tree anywhere from 1-3 years. Bill McNee, a forest health specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said thinning is also a big indicator of a tree’s health, and the best way to avoid an EAB infestation is to take action before it can even begin.
McNee said a tree with 30 to 50 percent of its canopy thinned out is likely too far gone to save. Those interested in doing more research on the emerald ash borer can find information at the DNR’s specialized EAB website.