SWANTON - Eighty-four tree experts from Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Delaware converged on the Maumee State Forest yesterday to confront a common enemy: The emerald ash borer.
Though the battle against the destructive beetle has been lost throughout northwest Ohio and lower Michigan, non-infested areas can get a jump on it by learning more about how to identify it in its larval stages of life.
So officials brought together dozens of people employed in forestry and related professions to peel back bark and look for telltale signs. Those include squiggly lines known as galleries. The beetle's worm-like larvae leave those behind while burrowing beneath the bark for food from the ash tree's juicy cambium layer.
Deb McCullough, an entomology and forestry professor at Michigan State University, ran one part of the session by encouraging those in attendance to think like their enemy.
"Get your emerald ash borermojo workin' a little bit," she said, challenging them to think outside the box and anticipate where else the beetle might be if they find an infested tree or two.
"We're talking about getting inside the mind of the beetle," added Andrew Storer, associate professor of forest insect ecology at Michigan Technological University.
The beetle has anchored itself in northern Ohio, southwest Ontario, parts of Indiana, and in the Chicago area since it was first identified in a Detroit suburb in 2002. It is believed to have been accidentally brought to North America years ago via a wooden shipping crate from Asia.
Dennis McDougall, a U.S. Department of Agriculture forester from St. Paul, said Midwest scientists have run simulation exercises on how to respond to public concerns when the beetle moves into a new state. "Most foresters are aware it's a reality and it's coming," he said.
Two employees of Wisconsin-based VisionQuest Environmental Management, forester David A. Olson, and Sylvia Redschlag, a natural resources specialist, said they are serving as emerald ash borer consultants for the USDA and the Wisconsin Tribal Conservation Advisory Council, which represents 11 tribes. Tribal leaders have expressed a variety of concerns about the potential loss of ash trees, from economic to cultural, they said.
Michael Connor, USDA forest health group leader in St. Paul, said the government is doing its best given limited financial resources. "Our challenge is to try to get out in front of this," he said.
Similar field work involving officials from noninfested states was held in northern Michigan on Tuesday.
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