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Published: Friday, 8/15/2003

Defiance County trees show signs of borer damage

BY TAD VEZNER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Emerald Ash Borer has scuttled back into Ohio - this time reaching as far as the Indiana border.

The latest outbreak marks the furthest spread of the beetle to date from its suspected origin in Wayne County, Michigan.

Since Aug. 7, officials at the Ohio Department of Agriculture said their survey teams have found year-old signs of borer damage on ash trees on eight properties in Hicksville at the western edge of Defiance County - three miles from the Ohio-Indiana line.

Live adult beetles were found on only one of the properties, a fact that is not surprising considering the beetle's adult life cycle is nearing its end.

The properties include a nursery and a manufacturer of implement handles that had bought thousands of ash logs from Michigan lumber sources within the last 12 months.

State agriculture officials maintain that they are unsure which property was responsible for the initial infestation.

The Emerald Ash Borer, believed to have been brought into the Detroit area five to 10 years ago, is a half-inch, metallic green beetle whose larvae burrow beneath the bark of ash trees, disrupting the flow of nutrients from their roots and killing them in as little as one year.

The beetle has been responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of ash trees in southeast Michigan, where 6 million trees have been left for dead.

In February, $300,000 was allocated to the Ohio Department of Agriculture to contain the pest after an initial outbreak affecting 8,000 trees on six residential properties in western Lucas County. The trees were cut down, chipped, and burned.

Until this month, there were no further incidents of ash borer infestation in Ohio.

This month in Michigan, the beetle has reportedly spread to seven more counties, bringing to 13 the number of Michigan counties affected.

According to officials at the Michigan and Ohio agriculture departments, these recent outbreaks can be attributed to “artificial spread” - transportation of firewood or trees for landscaping or camping - rather than the beetle's natural advancement.

Officials at the Ohio Department of Agriculture are working through the details of a quarantine to contain the new infestation.

Still unclear is whether they will put through an emergency quarantine on the infested sites - a process that will take “a couple of days” - or a more comprehensive quarantine affecting the entire state - a process that could take up to two weeks.

“We know this is something we need to stay ahead of,” said Melanie Wilt, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Agriculture. “There are 3.8 billion ash trees in Ohio - more than in Michigan. We recognize that and are working very aggressively to contain it.”

Regardless of what type of quarantine is involved, actions regarding infested trees are clear, Ms. Wilt said.

After an environmental assessment, officials likely will cut, chip, and dispose of infested trees, as they did in Whitehouse.

“We'll look at what worked in Whitehouse, and apply those lessons to Hicksville,” Ms. Wilt said.

Indiana officials are involved in the environmental assessment of ash trees along their border, making Indiana the third state to confront the borer infestation to date.

The new outbreak will trigger a push for additional funding for the Ohio Department of Agriculture in 2004, according to officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.



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