Saturday, March 1, 2003

Tree-killing borer beetles moving into Ohio from Michigan

By John Seewer
The Associated Press

TOLEDO, Ohio - An invasive pest that has killed or is killing as many as 5 million trees in southeast Michigan has been found for the first time in Ohio, the state's agriculture department said Friday.

The state is forming a task force to evaluate the problem and to figure out how to control the beetles' spread.

The Emerald Ash Borer is a wood-boring beetle from Asia that eats through the parts of trees that circulate water and nutrients from the roots.

Its larvae were found a couple of weeks ago in trees at a home in Swanton Township in Lucas County, just south of Toledo.

"A typical ash tree will die from infestation by this pest in two to three years," said Ohio Agriculture Director Fred Dailey.

Until now, the pest had been found only in southeast Michigan, said department spokeswoman Melanie Wilt.

"The thing that's different about the pest is that it's only been in the United States for five years," she said. "So little is known."

The beetle is threatening to kill 75 percent of southeast Michigan's ash trees. A state quarantine has banned people from moving ash trees, logs or firewood outside of six counties.

Nearly all of Ohio's nursery inspection staff is working to find how much it has moved into the state and has started surveying the area near Toledo, Wilt said.

It's likely the state will issue a quarantine for ash trees in the township and that could expand if the beetle has infiltrated other areas, Wilt said.

Michigan's Agriculture Department said homeowners and landscapers in southeast Michigan have been plagued by the loss of ash trees for the past couple of years, but the cause wasn't determined until this past July.

No insecticide has been proven effective against the borer, and ash tree losses are expected to multiply this summer in Michigan.

Scientists believe the insect entered the area with wood used to pack cargo from China, where the insect is native.

Emerald ash borer adult beetles fly up to three miles between ash trees from May through the summer as the females lay eggs in the bark crevices. The larvae feed under the bark in late summer and fall, creating tunnels that block the flow of water and nutrients inside the tree.

Clues of an infestation are large, dead branches and a D-shaped hole on the tree trunk.

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