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Published: Thursday, 7/8/2004

Beetle risk might expand

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Officials from four agencies told The Blade yesterday that a metallic-green beetle with all the markings of an emerald ash borer was trapped at the arboretum Monday.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture laboratory near Detroit is running tests on the beetle to see if it is an emerald ash borer or, perhaps, a harmless bug native to North America. Emerald ash borers came from Asia. They are so destructive they can kill whatever ash trees they infest within three years.

The arboretum is adjacent to the north side of heavily wooded Wildwood Preserve Metropark, separated only by I-475. To the west of the arboretum is another heavily wooded site, Camp Miakonda.

The suspicious beetle was found by Amy Stone of the Ohio State University extension office at Toledo Botanical Gardens.

She's the same extension agent who figured something was amiss when a Whitehouse resident contacted her early last year about a strange-looking

beetle he found on his property. That discovery ended up being Ohio's first confirmed emerald ash borer sighting.

Until then, the problem had been confined to southeast Michigan and southwest Ontario. It since has spread to other parts of Michigan and Ohio as well as the states of Maryland, Virginia, and Indiana.

Ms. Stone said the beetle she removed from an arboretum "trap tree" looked like an emerald ash borer. Many sites in Ohio and Michigan are being used this summer to lure beetles to learn more about their density and distribution.

A big chunk of bark is pulled away from the trap tree to attract beetles. Above the cut is the trap: A goopy, flypaper-like product called Tanglefoot spread on plastic wrap.

"The trap tree is the sentinel," said Melanie Wilt, state agriculture department spokesman.

Once thought to have a flight range of only a quarter-mile, emerald ash borers have stunned researchers with lab results that show they have the potential to fly more than six miles if under enough duress.

Sandra Stutzenstien, Stranahan program coordinator, said officials fear 20 to 40 trees will be cut down at the arboretum if the beetle in question is confirmed as an emerald ash borer. Scott Carpenter, a metroparks spokesman, said the park district will work with the state agriculture department to set up traps at more facilities, including Wildwood, Pearson, Swan Creek, Side Cut, and Providence metroparks.

One of the region's hottest infestation points is in the vicinity of the Oak Openings Preserve Metropark, where more than 1,000 trees are being cut. Hundreds more have been cut or are scheduled to be cut at the nearby Maumee State Forest, on land just south of Toledo Express Airport, and on public-private lands in Fulton and western Lucas counties.

Some 3,775 ash trees were cut down last year near Whitehouse. Hundreds of other trees have been cut in Rossford; Hicksville, Ohio; North Baltimore, Ohio, and in northeast Columbus.

Michigan, with 6 million trees dead or dying, remains the problem's epicenter. But officials agreed the Lucas-Wood-Fulton region could end up rivaling the problem in Columbus, where 15,000 trees were removed in the spring.

The Lucas-Wood-Fulton region now has seven confirmed sightings. The arboretum would be the region's eighth if test results are positive. This week, state agriculture officials began shifting their surveying focus to the vicinity of I-280 and the Ohio Turnpike, a general location where one anonymous caller claimed there were at least five to six potentially infested sites worth checking.

Once officials identify the perimeters of the problem, their attack strategy will follow. They have until mid-May for the next round of infestation, when beetles emerge as adults and seek other host trees.

Contact Tom Henry at:

thenry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6079.



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