Emerald ash borer Agrilus planipennis was identified in 2002 as the cause of extensive ash (Fraxinus spp.) decline and mortality in Detroit, Michigan, and has since killed millions of ash trees in the US and Canada. When discovered, it was not clear how long it had been present or at what location the invading colony started. We used dendrochronological methods to document the onset and progression of ash mortality and the spatio-temporal dynamics of the invasion. Reconstructing the progression of ash mortality serves as a proxy to draw inferences about the colonization and spread of emerald ash borer in North America.