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Research Highlights

Individual Highlight

Woodpeckers Capitalize on an Invasive Forest Pest

Photo of Dempsey Middle School science students paint and dissect ash logs to understand woodpecker feeding on emerald ash borer larvae. Joanne Rebbeck, USDA Forest ServiceDempsey Middle School science students paint and dissect ash logs to understand woodpecker feeding on emerald ash borer larvae. Joanne Rebbeck, USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : Emerald ash borer, an invasive beetle that kills ash trees, is eaten by bark-foraging birds like woodpeckers. Forest Service scientists and partners studied behavioral feeding preferences and effectiveness of woodpeckers foraging in beetle-infested forests.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Knight, KathleenRebbeck, Joanne
Research Location : Delaware, OH
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2014
Highlight ID : 625

Summary

To understand how woodpeckers respond to emerald ash borer (EAB) and whether there is potential for woodpeckers to control EAB, Forest Service scientists and partners conducted surveys and dissected infested ash trees at Dempsey Middle School's forest in Delaware, Ohio. They observed external signs of woodpecker feeding on ash and non-ash species. The seventh and eighth grade advanced science classes worked with scientists to mark holes and dissect infested ash trees to determine how many EAB larvae lived in the ash trees and how many were eaten by woodpeckers. Scientists found that woodpeckers specifically targeted ash trees, creating 14 times more feeding holes in ash trees than in other tree species. When feeding on ash trees, woodpeckers specifically targeted trees more highly infested by EAB. Woodpeckers consume a significant proportion of EAB larvae: of the 7,098 EAB larvae that were evident in these dissected trees, 2,624 (37 percent) had been eaten by woodpeckers. In some highly infested trees, up to 85 percent of the EAB larvae were consumed.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

 
  • Christopher J. Whelan, Illinois Natural History Survey
  • Deb Bogard, Dempsey Middle School, Delaware, OH
  • Joel S. Brown, Charles E. Flower, and Miquel A. Gonzalez-Meler, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Lawrence C. Long, Ohio State University

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