How Bug Warfare Could Save the Baseball Bat

Ecologists hoping Asian wasps can stop the emerald ash borer
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 27, 2011 11:42 AM CDT
How Bug Warfare Could Save the Baseball Bat
This undated file photo provided by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources shows an adult emerald ash borer, the bug that's threatening the baseball bat industry.   (AP Photo/Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, File)

(Newser) – The mighty baseball bat could soon be brought low by bugs—unless a USDA plan to instigate some bug warfare succeeds. Meet the emerald ash borer, or EAB, a beetle that recently began infesting New York’s forests and feeding on its ash trees. And since roughly 50% of major leaguers use ash wood bats—a trend the commissioner’s office wants to encourage, because they shatter less than the maple variety—a supply shortage is “certainly a concern,” one MLB executive tells the Wall Street Journal.

Thankfully, the USDA has a plan to introduce two species of Asian wasp, the EAB’s natural foes, into the forests. When these wasps detect EAB larvae hiding in ash wood, they lay their own eggs—producing beetle-eating hatchlings. “This is Game 7 for these species,” one ecologist says. They won’t know if their plan has worked for about a year, but Louisville Slugger says its supply should be fine for at least five more years anyway. And if all else fails, Curtis Granderson quips, “Maybe we’ll go with aluminum.” (Read more emerald ash bore stories.)

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