Emerald Ash Borer confirmed in Superior's North EndA small, metallic-green bug from China could soon wreak havoc on Superior’s tree population.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
A small, metallic-green bug from China could soon wreak havoc on Superior’s tree population.
Superior city officials have received confirmation of the presence of emerald ash borer in Superior’s North End.
Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection placed Douglas County under quarantine Thursday as a result.
“While it’s disappointing to have found EAB in a new location so far from other infestations, and in close proximity to our north woods, it is not surprising, given the ease with which this pest can hitchhike with the help of humans,” said Brian Kuhn, director of the Bureau of Plant Industry with DATCP in a prepared statement.
City crews found the infected tree on the public boulevard in front of 608 Grand Ave. on Aug. 7.
“We actually found a dead specimen in the first tree, and we called the hotline,” said Mary Morgan, parks and recreation administrator and city forester. “They said ‘send us a series of high-resolution photos of the symptoms you’re seeing.’”
Morgan said she and arborist John Krivinchuk went back to the neighborhood. At North Fifth Street and Grand Avenue, she said they saw a good panorama of suckering and die back. She said they also saw vertical cuts in the trees “and we actually saw the thing.”
The metallic-green half-inch bug was observed on a tree near the corner of North Fifth Street on the east side in the 400 block of Baxter Avenue. The ash tree immediately across the street was in tough shape as well, Morgan said.
City officials sent the samples to the Wisconsin Department of Trade, Agriculture and Consumer Protection, which confirmed the city’s suspicions that emerald ash borer indeed reached Superior.
The bug previously hadn’t been found north of the Twin Cities in Minnesota or any further north than Brown or Trempealeau counties in Wisconsin.
Mayor Bruce Hagen said when crews took the tree on Grand Avenue, they carefully peeled back the bark, revealing the telltale “S” tunneling in the trunk.
The emerald ash borer, an import from China, has killed millions of trees in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Illinois over the last decade. It has no natural enemies here. The adult bugs lay their eggs on the ash tree and the larvae burrow into the tree where they eat into parts of the tree that carry water and nutrients to the canopy. Trees affected typically died in one to four years.
Hagen served as mayor in the late 1970s when Dutch elm disease hit Superior and much of the city’s green canopy was lost to the disease.
He said it was a very emotional time then, with some favoring rapid removal of the dying trees and others concerned about losing the canopy in their neighborhoods.
The city has been preparing for the possible infestation for years. In 2007, the city’s tree board began planning the city’s course of action if the bug made it this far north.
The board launched a public education campaign and worked with Scouts and other groups to disseminate information about the bug to neighborhoods where the most ash trees exist.
The city also purchased a chipper in 2011 that cuts the wood to 1 inch by 1 inch, considered a processing option that eliminates EAB.
The board also conducted an inventory of trees on city boulevards, in parks and at the Nemadji Golf Course. About 3,000 ash trees are in public rights of way. That doesn’t include ash trees that may exist in the Superior Municipal Forest or people’s yards.
An estimated 17,000 ash trees exist citywide.
Morgan estimates the cost of dealing with just the 3,000 public trees that have been identified as ash at about $1 million to remove and another $1.2 million to replace.
However, because of the city’s financial situation, Hagen said he doesn’t anticipate the city replacing trees taken because of the infestation.
“This infestation is really going to change the landscape,” Hagen said, adding that citizens can plant boulevard trees themselves by applying for a free tree permit from the city forester.
Morgan said she doesn’t anticipate treating the trees chemically either because of the cost, although that could be an option for homeowners. She suggested homeowners go to www.emeraldashborer.wi.gov to get a copy of a homeowners guide to emerald ash borer.
“If it’s unhealthy already, it might be too late to treat,” Morgan said. She said repeated treatments are likely to be needed.
Homeowners should be on the lookout for a D-shaped hole in the bark in their ash trees.
The infestation only affects ash trees, Morgan said. It doesn’t affect mountain ash, which isn’t a true ash, or other species of trees.
The city will begin taking ash trees that are showing signs of the infestation and will be working with state and federal officials to identify possible marshaling areas for the wood chips, Morgan said.
“It’s a very expensive, painful problem,” Morgan said.
Anyone with questions can also contact the Douglas County UW-Extension Office at 715-395-1363.
“Although the only presence that we know of at this time of the EAB is in the North End of Superior, all of Douglas County will be quarantined as a result,” said Douglas County Administrator Andy Lisak. “The quarantine restricts the movement of ash logs, ash byproducts and hardwood firewood out of the county.”
Lisak said loggers will still be able to move softwoods and hardwoods, however, hardwoods used for firewood will be restricted. Loggers will have to work with DATCP to ensure the hardwoods are pest free before moving it out of the county, he said.
Lisak said there is about 650,000 acres of forest land in Douglas County, of which the county manages about 280,000 acres. Ash is a major component of the swamp hardwood forest, which makes up about 23,000 acres forests in the county.
Mark Schroeder, recreation and resource manager with the Douglas County Forestry Department said it’s still premature, but the county is hopeful the devastated ash may be used as biofuel.
However, with the inability to move ash out of the county, he said Douglas County is losing a valuable resource used for a variety of wood products.
Additional information will be available on the county’s website, www.douglascountywi.org, Lisak said.
The city and county will be working together to address the issue, Hagen said. He also said he reached out to Duluth Mayor Don Ness to advise him of the problem in Superior.
Duluth News Tribune staff writer John Myers contributed to this report.