Devastating beetle knocks on Kentucky's door

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Devastating beetle knocks on Kentucky's door

Postby Wilberforce » Sat Dec 27, 2014 9:12 pm

Devastating beetle knocks on Kentucky's door

James Bruggers, jbruggers@courier-journal.com 11:40 a.m. EST December 26, 2014
The Asian longhorn beetle threatens 100 species of hardwood trees, including maples, and is only about 10 miles away from Kentucky. But our biggest risk may be from Louisville International.

BETHEL, Ohio –

The buzz of chainsaws and the roar of wood-chipping machines rip through the crisp air in a rural neighborhood of ranch-style homes here, where stately maples, sycamores, ashes and elms have long painted a fall palate of red and yellow against a blue sky.

But those colors are vanishing, as a once-robust tree canopy falls prey to the Asian longhorn beetle — an insect invader that threatens not only Ohio, but puts Kentucky and Indiana at high risk as well.

"This is potentially devastating," says Joe Boggs, an assistant professor of entomology at Ohio State University. "Nothing we've ever dealt with is like this."

Just 10 miles from the Kentucky border, the village of Bethel has become a key battle line in the nation's fight against the longhorn beetle, along with Louisville International Airport, one of the world's busiest air cargo hubs.

UPS at its Worldport hub in Louisville works with federal authorities, trying to keep the beetle from hitching a ride into Louisville in wood pallets or crates from Asia. And Bethel is Ground Zero, illustrating the painful consequences of an infestation discovered three years ago.

There, U.S. Department of Agriculture has removed nearly 60,000 trees that have either been attacked or could be attacked, including sugar maples, red maples, poplars, sycamores, ash and elms. And with survey crews identifying more infested trees daily, there's no end in sight to the tree cutting, much of which is mandatory.

"Some people say it's just a little bug," so why the fuss, says Phillip M. Baldauf, USDA's beetle eradication project manager for Ohio.

But there could be billions of dollars of economic and environmental losses should this beetle spread across the country, he warned. "It would be hundreds of millions of dollars in Ohio alone," Baldauf said, listing the many benefits of trees it attacks.

Tourism, maple syrup, clean water, clean air and quality of life, he said, "would all be significantly impacted if this beetle isn't eradicated."

RELATED | sh borer wiping out Kentucky trees

Still, the character of Bethel and other communities within a 61-square-mile quarantine zone are being changed forever, residents say. Neighbors have been pitted against neighbors, communities against communities, they say, and some have also been fighting the way the federal government has gone about its eradication program and are urging a lighter hand.

"It's devastating some neighborhoods," said Patti Hornak, whose family has lost 600 trees on their woodlot and winery, and expects to lose many more. "We're being asked to take a hit for the team, but there is a limit to how much of a hit you can take."

It's a 'bomber'

You could call it the Ebola of bark beetles, a threat so great that the federal government steps in, draws up a quarantine area and seeks to eradicate it and prevent it from spreading to other communities.

USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service draws a quarantine boundary and bans the movement of firewood, nursery stock, logs, stumps, roots and branches.

"The idea isn't to sit on this thing," said Boggs. "Any known infested tree is going to be taken down and destroyed," he said. "No piece can be longer than one inch in two dimensions."

And unlike some other invading bark beetles such as the emerald ash borer, which essentially limits its attack to one kind of tree, the Asian longhorn beetle can feast on as many as 100 species of hardwoods.

Several insecticides with the active ingredient imidacloprid are approved for use on the longhorn beetle, but Baldauf says they're not always effective because the beetles larvae burrow deep into a tree's heartwood where the poison never reaches.

The good news, however, is that Asian longhorn beetles are much slower moving than, for example, the emerald ash borer, which has swept across most of the eastern United States since 2002, killing some 25 million ash trees.

But the Asian longhorn beetle has still led to the loss of more than 130,000 trees in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Illinois and Ohio since it was first discovered in the United States in 1996, according to USDA.

"It can fly, but as I describe it, it's a bomber, one of the biggest beetles that you would ever see in the United States," up to an inch and a half long, Boggs said. It finds enough host trees nearby, so it doesn't need to cover long distances, he added.

That slower spread, Baldauf said, has allowed the government to encircle and eradicate outbreaks. An infestation in Chicago was eradicated in 2008 a decade after its discovery and more than 1,500 trees removed, with other successes including New York City boroughs of Manhattan and Staten Island in 2013.

Active infestations remain in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Ohio, USDA said.

Tree fights

In Ohio, survey crews look daily for telltale signs: Dime-sized, perfectly round exit holes in the tree, for instance, or oval depressions scraped into the bark by female beetles' where eggs are laid.

Some crews use ropes to climb up 30 to 50 feet to check on upper limbs.

"Eradication is achievable," Baldauf says. "Knowing that is what motivates the agency to take what you call such extreme measures," he tells a reporter.

All infested trees are removed at the government's expense, even if landowners object. Also, he said, the government has the authority to remove other potential host trees, but has agreed to only take those out with permission, a concession to area residents.

The money comes from the USDA's Asian longhorn beetle program, which has been spending on average $34 million per year since 1997 to fight the pest nationally.

"It's not been a very good situation for us," said Alan Ausman, the mayor of Bethel. "We are not fully trusting them and their decision making, and what they tell us," he said of USDA.

Meanwhile, he said, people who live outside the quarantine zone support aggressive tree removal inside the zone, and some property owners are using the tree removal to have their property clear cut for potential development.

Hornak and her husband started a group called the Bethel Asian Longhorn Beetle Citizens Cooperative, and it has sought to protect property rights and has challenged USDA decision making.

"We went door to door," Hornak said, a resident of Clarmont County's Tate Township. "We talked to neighbors. Our complaint was, if a tree does not show signs of infestation, we don't want you cutting it."

Now, her group and the Bethel mayor want wider use of chemical treatment instead of some of the tree cutting, which is taking a heavy toll by decreasing property values, increasing heating and cooling costs.

"There's an emotional attachment to these trees," she adds. "It was very hard for some of these people to lose trees that had been in the family for generations."

Baldauf said USDA has used the pesticide in another Ohio township where it has fully delineated the infestation. It's not completed that task in Tate Township, he said, so the focus is on surveys and tree removal, which he also said is more effective.

USDA wants to be careful with its use of imidacloprid because of concerns over potential harm to honey bees, a key pollinator, he added.

"I understand some people are angry," Baldauf said. "I wouldn't like this kind of activity in my neighborhood, too."

Worldport watch

The Ohio beetles are thought to have been brought in by a former business that imported tractor parts from Asia in wooden crates, Boggs said.

Kentucky faces a risk of infestation if someone were to haul infested wood across the Ohio River and into the state, he said.

But so far when new outbreaks have occurred, scientists have determined the beetles to be genetically different from those already in the United States, Boggs said.

That means any state's biggest risk of a new attack is probably from shipments coming into the United States from Asia. And that's why, he said, it's so important to keep a close eye on any type of port where overseas shipments arrive, including any cargo coming into Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, or the massive UPS port at Louisville International, he said.

And in the last several years, he said, federal officials have had stronger regulations to help them do their jobs.

At the UPS Worldport in Louisville, ranked 7th largest globally for total weight of cargo handling by Airports Council International, UPS spokesman Mike Mangeot said the shipping company has "extensive measures" and works with federal authorities to keep invasive pests out.

One of them is Department of Homeland Security entomologist and University of Kentucky graduate Brian Kovacic, who is armed with a pocket knife, a flashlight and knowledge of regulations that control international shipping.

It also helps, he said, to have "patience and a good set of eyes."

Shippers must treat their wood packaging with heat or methyl bromide, a largely phased out pesticide, to kill wood-boring insects and show proof of treatment, said Kovacic.

The beetle has not been found in Louisville yet, Homeland Security officials said, but Kovacic said "there have been times ... we have denied entry on something because it wasn't properly heat treated or lacked any documentation."

Kentucky state officials and forest industry businesses want the beetle kept out of Kentucky, too. The state's forest industry is valued at $12.8 billion in 2013.

The state entomologist office at the University of Kentucky has been asking people to check their trees, hoping to catch any infestation early, and reminding people to not move firewood very far.

"This is a truly a devastating pest," said Joe Collins, senior nursery inspector with the state entomologist's office. "The public are our eyes in the field. If they see something that doesn't look quite right, they can either call us or their county extension agent."

Reach reporter James Bruggers at (502) 582-4645 or on Twitter @jbruggers.

Asian longhorn beetle

Highlights

•Bores through the tissues that carry water and nutrients throughout the tree, which causes the tree to starve, weaken, and eventually die.

•Is harmless to humans and pets.

•Can be seen especially in summer on trees, branches, walls, outdoor furniture, cars, and sidewalks, and caught in pool filters.

Signs of damage

•One-fourth inch or larger perfectly round exit holes in the tree.

•Oval depressions on the bark where the eggs are laid.

•Sawdust-like material on ground and branches.

•Sap seeping from wounds in the tree.

How to report

•In Kentucky, call the Office of the State Entomologist at 859-257-5838.

•In Indiana, call Indiana Department of Natural Resources at 317-232-4120.

•In Ohio, call the ALB Eradication Program at 513-381-7180.

source
http://www.courier-journal.com/story/te ... /20911165/


http://www.aphis.usda.gov/plant_health/ ... stlist.pdf
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