Farm Horizons, November 2009

Emerald ash borer– it’s here

By Jen Bakken
Staff Writer

An insect known as emerald ash borer, native to eastern Asia, was discovered in Michigan and Ontario in 2002.

In May, it was found in Minnesota in Ramsey County, near the border with Hennepin County. Currently, there are known infestations in Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Canada.

There’s no mistaking that the tiny bug with a fancy name is here and will cause big problems for ash trees across Minnesota and the entire country.

“I haven’t personally run into it yet,” said Red Colwill, owner and operator of Tri-County Tree Service in South Haven. “But, I’m a volunteer first detector with the State of Minnesota ‘Arrest The Pest’ hotline, and it’s only a matter of time.”

Colwill, whose job it is to save trees, said the emerald ash borer is difficult to detect in a tree, before it’s too late, because they work from the inside of the tree as the larvae tunnel under the bark. The first noticeable symptom is an ash tree that begins dying from the top down.

Ramsey and Hennepin counties have been quarantined. This prohibits the movement of materials by any entity for commercial, recreational, or any purpose. This is likely to happen in any county where emerald ash borer is found.

“In other words, don’t move firewood, or anything,” said Colwill. “Use it and burn it local. Don’t take the chance.”

Though this is a serious situation, he doesn’t suggest residents immediately give up on their ash trees or hastily cut them down. The first thing one should do if they suspect their trees are in danger of emerald ash borer is to call the Arrest the Pest Hotline at (651) 201-6684, toll free at 888- 545-6684, or visit A volunteer first detector will look at, as well as advise about ash trees free of charge.

Colwill, himself, offers a diagnosis and treatment plan for some ash trees affected by emerald ash borer through his business Tri-County Tree Service. He also offers trims, removals, bucket work, and climbing. As a tree inspector, licensed chemical applicator, and ISA-certified arborist MN4171A, Colwill likes to refer to himself as “the tree guy.”

Recently, Colwill visited Howard Lake to advise the city council on trees in its parks. He recommended treating the ash, birch, maple, and oak trees in Lions Park and Memorial Park. The city was given a list of trees that exist within the two parks, and the cost to treat each type of tree.

“Because of the increasing long-term drought conditions, maples and oaks have sustained considerable borer damage from two-lined chestnut borer, clear-winged borer,” he stated at the council meeting. “And, the ash trees, although not infected with emerald ash borer, are fighting cambium miner, and several other borers, such as banded and red-headed ashborer.”

Art Ahlstrom, owner and operator of AAA Nursery and Landscaping in Delano, admits he hasn’t had any experience with emerald ash borer yet. “From what I’m hearing, you really don’t know it’s hit until it bores its way out of the tree,” he said. “I haven’t ordered any of those trees for five years because they’ve been warning and alerting us for years that it’s coming – and it’s here.”

For more information about emerald ash borer or the health of trees on your property, contact Tri-County Tree Service at (320) 236-2480 or (320) 224-8161.

Identifying an ash tree

Branches and buds are across from each other and not staggered on ash trees. Leaves are compound and composed of five to 11 leaflets. Leaflet margins may be smooth or toothed. The bark on mature trees is tight, with a distinct pattern of diamond-shaped ridges. On young trees, the bark is relatively smooth.

When seeds are present on trees, they are dry, oar-shaped samaras. They usually occur in clusters and hang on the tree until late fall or early winter.

Indentifying the emerald ash borer

The larvae are worm-like and live underneath the bark of ash trees. The adult beetles are small, iridescent green, and about 1/2-inch long. When they leave a tree, in the spring, they create a D-shaped exit hole in the bark.

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