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Jessica Ballou, Published June 16 2012

Fargo area leaders prep for ash borer

FARGO – Fargo leaders are working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to educate residents about a tiny beetle that wreaks havoc on ash trees.

The emerald ash borer is an invasive wood-boring beetle that has killed tens of millions of ash trees in southeastern Michigan alone, with tens of millions more lost in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Ontario, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Quebec, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. It has also cost municipalities, property owners, nursery operators and forest products industries tens of millions of dollars.

There have been no emerald ash borer sightings in North Dakota, a state with an estimated 70 million ash trees, but leaders fear they may soon become an issue.

To prepare, borer traps were recently placed around Fargo. Anita Burnside, the city’s emerald ash borer trapping coordinator, set up 27 traps, many along the Red River, and parks and recreation workers placed eight others.

Dozens of traps have also been set up across the state by other departments working with USDA.

The traps are being used to be proactive before the pests arrive, said Fargo City Forester Scott Liudahl.

The traps are purple, the best attraction for adult beetles. The traps are covered in manuka oil and a sticky substance known as tanglefoot. The traps use pheromones as a lure to attract the ash borers.

Traps are switched out halfway through the summer to ensure the surface remains sticky. No emerald ash borers have been caught in the metro area yet.

An estimated 50,000 traps have been set up in 47 states, making it easier for the USDA and other agencies to detect the edges of the infestation problem.

USDA workers also placed fliers on 17th Avenue South and on Elm Street in Fargo that advertise the dangers of borers and how to avoid an infestation. Both streets are lined with ash trees.

Minimizing the amount of firewood being transported is the best way to reduce the risk of having an infestation on ash trees, officials say.

Rebecca Blue of the USDA uses the expression “burn it where you buy it” to remind people when they travel or go camping.

Hauling firewood is the “easiest way to transport this little critter,” she said.

Liudahl said the city will soon start working in neighborhoods with a high concentration of trees in poor condition, particularly ash trees, to try to prevent infestations.

Most beetles remain in protected locations such as bark crevices or foliage, especially during inclement weather or warm temperatures. This makes it difficult to determine a problem until it’s too late, Liudahl said, adding that prevention and maintenance is key.

The best way for people to prevent infestations in their yards is through diversification by removing and replacing ash trees so they aren’t next to each other.

Liudahl listed oak, linden and maple as trees that can handle the heartiness of this area for diversification.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Jessica Ballou at (701) 241-5509