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Published: Wednesday, 10/1/2003

Tree beetle found at Rossford plaza; infested Michigan landscaping blamed

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The emerald ash borer has shown up again in northwest Ohio, this time in ash trees imported from Michigan for landscaping at the Crossroads of America shopping plaza on U.S. 20 in southeastern Rossford.

The tiny, metallic-green Asian beetle quickly has become the scourge of forestry officials throughout North America, so destructive that they say it could wipe out billions of the continent's ash trees within a few years. Ash is an important part of the economy, found in items such as wood flooring, tool handles, and baseball bats.

Surveying will begin soon to see whether the beetle has spread beyond the Wood County shopping plaza and to help officials decide how many trees should be removed or treated, Ohio Department of Agriculture spokesman Melanie Wilt said.

The damage occurs when the pest is in its larval form. It typically emerges from trees in mid-May as a beetle, then spreads up to a half-mile. Officials have said their strategy for addressing all infestations should be in place before mid-May.

“We're still trying to find out how widespread it is and how many trees are involved,” Ms. Wilt said.

Ohio's first sighting of the beetle was in Lucas County, near Whitehouse, in the spring. Hundreds of trees were destroyed, including many around infested lots to help keep the beetle from spreading.

Then, in August, the emerald ash borer was found in Defiance County, at 15 parcels inside the limits of Hicksville, Ohio. Weeks later, the beetle was found in nearby Paulding County, in a tree at a golf course. That tree was purchased from a Hicksville nursery before the outbreak was known, officials have said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture traced the Wood County outbreak after examining sale records from Michigan nurseries. Craig Kellough, USDA project director, was not available for comment.

Michigan has by far North America's worst infestation, with thousands of ash trees in a 13-county area either dead, dying, or being destroyed in an effort to halt the beetle. Millions of dollars are being spent to remove and mulch infested trees. The mulch is burned at a wood-burning power plant near Flint, Mich.

The emerald ash borer also has destroyed many trees in southern Ontario. It recently was found near the nation's capital, in the Washington suburb of Prince George's County, Md. The Maryland Department of Agriculture has said the beetle probably was in two out-of-state shipments that a Maryland nursery received this spring.

Gov. Bob Taft recently banned the importation of Michigan wood into Ohio. In his executive order, he gave the state agriculture department power to move faster on imposing quarantines for infested areas.

Officials are urging people to respect quarantines, leave firewood at home, and buy it near their destination, especially during hunting seasons this fall.



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