Midwest pest headed this way

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, February 19, 2014
An infestation of the insect known as the emerald ash borer (EAB) is beginning to take hold of Iowa and its communities. The pest feeds on ash trees, ultimately destroying them from the inside out.

Several communities around Iowa have begun taking a proactive stance to prevent major damage, such as removing ash trees and preventing them from being planted. Not only are there millions of ash trees in Iowa, but the tree is popularly used in parks and along streets.

"We need to get our hands around the number of trees in town, then get some plans in place," said City Manager Lawrence McNaul. "We'll be getting started this year."

Since there's no known pesticide or other major deterrent to get rid of the EAB, it's been suggested that Iowa communities remove their trees. When the weather warms up West Liberty will take an inventory of its own ash trees, then decide if it will do the same.

McNaul is also looking into possible funding or incentives from the state to help with the removal of the trees; however, he's still in the early stages of figuring it out.

While there's no way to know exactly when EAB will be present, it's generally accepted that they will arrive in West Liberty sooner or later.

According to the Iowa Department of Agriculture (IDA) there are officially six confirmed counties that have the insect. Black Hawk is the most recent to join their ranks as of Feb. 4, 2014.

Other counties include Des Moines, Jefferson, Cedar, Union and Allamakee. Allamakee was the first county to be confirmed in May of 2010.

According to the IDA website, "The emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) is perhaps one of the most destructive tree pests we have seen in decades. Larvae of this insect feed under the bark of ash trees. They damage the ability of the tree to transport water and nutrients, and may kill the tree in as little as two to four years."

The problem was first discovered in Michigan in 2002 and has swept across states in the eastern United States including Mississippi and Indiana. Now it has crossed the Mississippi border, causing Iowa to be quarantined on a federal and state level.

The quarantine is meant to prevent EAB infested articles from being moved and sold outside of the area. The IDA estimates that transporting ash wood, logs and chips is the biggest factor in spreading EAB.

"Firewood that is sold in Iowa, must be labeled to include the source company or person, location of harvest and tree species," says the IDA website.

There are 25 quarantined counties in Iowa, including Muscatine and the surrounding counties of Cedar, Louisa, Scott and Johnson.

Unfortunately, the EAB has no natural predators in America. It originates from Asia. Various groups are attempting to research natural predators, insecticides and ways to trap it.

However, no major solution has been found. According to the IDA website, "There currently are no eradication efforts being done in Michigan and Ohio. The costs have proven to be too great for large areas where the insect is thought to be well established."

In North America it has only been found to infest ash trees. To learn more about EAB and signs of tree infection visit www.iowatreepests.com.
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