Excerpt: The crack of bats this time of year means two things: Baseball is back and winter is over.
But Major League Baseball’s spring soundtrack relies heavily on wood from white ash trees treasured for strength and flexibility. And it may soon sound different as a tiny beetle threatens the northern Pennsylvania stands that for more than a century have supplied wood for bats.
Experts say climate change may alter just how far north and south the tree-killing pest will spread. Northern Pennsylvania is right in the emerald ash borer’s sweet spot.
“If climate change reduces those extreme cold temperatures in northern states, which can kill them, it may allow it to spread north faster,” said Dan Herms, a professor and entomologist at Ohio State University. “But surely they’ll get to where Louisville Slugger is.”
‘Knocking on the doorstep’
Half of Major League players use a Louisville Slugger bat, according to the company. White ash makes up 45 percent of their wood bats, and all of the company’s white ash comes from forests in northern Pennsylvania and New York.
Hillerich & Bradsby Co., which has been making Louisville Slugger bats for more than a hundred years, turns about 12,000 to 15,000 white ash trees into bats every year.
“We haven’t seen it affect our ability to get logs yet, but it’s knocking on the doorstep,” said Brian Boltz, a general manager at Hillerich & Bradsby Co., the parent company of Louisville Slugger. “It’s pretty established both 50 miles north and south of our main harvesting areas.”
End Scientific American excerpt.
Update: Physicist responds in 2023 to the study:
The utter dishonesty of the Scientific American article on white ash bats is breathtaking. It makes Goebbels look like a man of principle. White ash trees are not being killed by warmer winters but by the emerald ash borer, a handsome but deadly East Asian insect that reached North America a few decades ago, probably in wooden shipping pallets. No winter in North America, or in its Asian homeland, is cold enough to kill the insect.
I have two fine white ash trees in my front yard. They get a dose of insecticide injected into their trunks every summer and this protects them. Non treated ash trees in have long since died. But you can’t treat all the white ash trees in the US forests this way. Lamentably, the white ash is going the way of the American Chestnut. In both cases it was not climate change but an exotic species from Asia that took them out, a fungus in the case of the American Chestnut.