December 22, 2014

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As an Asian insect threatens Under quarantine

While cities like Columbus and Cleveland are planning to clear cut ash trees, Lorain County Metro Parks is taking a less drastic approach to control the spread of an insect that decimates the tree.
Metro Parks officials are hoping that quarantine and chemical treatment research and experimentation will control the spread of the emerald ash borers, an Asian beetle that lays its eggs under the bark of ash trees.
The bright green insect bores its way into the tree’s bark, where it hatches an ugly, worm-like larva that eats the tree alive.
The green bug is about the size of a Tic Tac with bulging black eyes. They are believed to have come into Michigan in the 1990s from Asia via wooden cargo crates, said Patricia McCaslin, spokeswoman for Lorain County Metro Parks.
“It usually takes three to five years for the borers to kill an ash tree,” McCaslin said. “We didn’t know they were here until trees started dying.”
Today, Lorain County is one of 31 counties in Ohio that the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Ohio Department of Agriculture consider to be under quarantine, meaning that to control the spread, no hardwood and no firewood from here can be taken elsewhere. Violators of the ban could be fined $5,000.
Melissa Brewer, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Agriculture, said the loss of the state’s ash trees would be devastating as they are vital to the state economy, with their wood being used to make baseball bats, hardwood flooring and cabinets.
Lorain County was not considered a quarantine zone until 2006, when signs of the bug started showing up in Vermilion. Since then, ash borers have moved into Henrietta and Brownhelm townships, Amherst and a small portion of North Ridgeville.
McCaslin said the bugs didn’t spread so quickly simply through migration, but they were transported as firewood, where the larva can survive under the bark. Eventually, they grow into adults, burrow through the outside of the bark, and find a fresh ash to call home.
Brian Holmes, a Lorain County Metro Parks ranger and manager, said the quarantine has proven effective at slowing the spread of the insects locally. However, areas near Lorain County haven’t been so fortunate.
Holmes said he’s seen extensive damage to trees in parts of Erie County just north of Route 113, where the larvae leave work-like tracks under the bark and the adults leave a distinctive, D-shaped hole where they burrow out, allowing rangers to identify infested trees.
In Cleveland, there are plans to eliminate ash trees from entire neighborhoods to gain control of the problem, and that’s what Columbus is looking at doing as well.
Dan Balser, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said at least so far, there hasn’t been any areas in Ohio that has been forced to cut down all of its ash trees. But in Michigan, which was the first stop for the ash borers, some portions of the state have been forced to clear cut the trees since the insect was first discovered in 2002.
Balser said there are a number of chemical treatments being researched and tested to contain the insects. Some are poured into the soil while some are injected directly into the tree.
The problem is that the chemical treatments are not completely effective and work better as a preventative measure or when early signs of the ash borer are present, Balser said.
So far, the bugs seemingly have not found any other plant species to their liking in the U.S. limiting their damage to the ash tree only, McCaslin said.
Contact Ben Norris at 329-7119 or bnorris@chroniclet.com.

072407bug.jpgCarl Sullenberger / Chronicle photos
Park Manager Ranger Brian Holmes explains how to identify an ash tree Monday at the Carlisle Visitor Center in Carlisle Township.