Local officials worried after emerald ash borer found in Loda


Local officials worried after emerald ash borer found in Loda

LODA – The Illinois Department of Agriculture is preparing a quarantine of Iroquois County prohibiting transportation of wood products that might be infested by the emerald ash borer.

The development follows the discovery of the tree-devouring pest in at least a dozen ash trees along Interstate 57 near Loda this month.

The agriculture department announced confirmation Thursday that the beetle had infested about a dozen trees at the rest stop on southbound I-57 just north of Loda.

A dozen more trees at the rest stop for northbound traffic also showed signs of infestation, but the bug's presence there hasn't been confirmed, officials said.

"All of the trees are exhibiting the same signs," said spokesman Jeff Squibb.

State and federal field workers found larvae in trees at the southbound rest stop on March 10.

The larvae samples were collected March 12 and submitted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which confirmed them as emerald ash borer, Squibb said.

The agriculture department plans to remove the infested trees, and others suspected of being infested, "certainly before the end of May," he said.

That's when adult beetles typically begin to emerge, posing a threat of spreading to other trees.

"At the present time, there's no risk of flight, so there's no chance of it spreading unless someone were to take the tree or part of it and move it, I suppose," Squibb noted. "So right now, there's no urgency to get the trees removed."

In the meantime, officials plan to place surveillance traps through Iroquois, Ford, Champaign and Vermilion counties "to determine whether this infestation is isolated," according to a news release from Warren Goetsch, bureau chief of environmental programs for the agriculture department.

In Iroquois County, the agriculture department also is likely to declare a quarantine prohibiting the movement of potentially contaminated wood products. That includes ash trees, limbs and branches and all types of firewood, Squibb said.

People or businesses who knowingly violate the quarantine could be fined.

All or parts of 21 counties in northern and central Illinois are already under quarantine to prevent the spread of the beetle.

"Iroquois County is just outside the current quarantine boundaries," Goetsch said in the release. "The quarantine includes McLean and Livingston counties to the west and Kankakee County to the north, but not Iroquois. An adjustment obviously will need to be made to account for this new detection.

"We'd like to make that decision in the next few weeks so the new boundaries are in place before adult emergence begins near the end of May."

Meanwhile, Paxton officials plan to cut down 30 ash trees this summer as part of an ongoing effort to prevent the spread of the pest.

The city council had 29 ash trees cut down last summer. So far, the emerald ash borer has not been discovered in Paxton, but city officials are preparing for what they say is an inevitability.

Randy Swan, superintendent of Paxton's street department, said he already has discussed with "five to eight" residents the possibility of removing ash trees from their properties.

Squibb said although the adult ash borer can fly and spread to other trees on its own, "our experience is typically when the beetle moves, it's because man has (inadvertently) moved it to a new location."

That's why Squibb is not surprised by the location of the most recent discovery. Squibb said the ash borer was also discovered in LaSalle County along an interstate.

"It's where we're finding the bug, and it's just simply because people are inadvertently moving it," Squibb said. "The quarantine is intended to prevent that."

Once an area is included in the quarantine, the state agriculture department's field staff visits businesses such as tree nurseries or waste-removal services to explain the quarantine, Squibb said.

"Then those businesses will enter into a compliance agreement, basically saying they understand the terms of the quarantine and that they agree to abide by them," he said.

Squibb said he is not aware of anyone "knowingly" violating the compliance agreements in any quarantined counties. No one has been fined for a violation, he said.

Iroquois is the 12th Illinois county with a confirmed infestation. Previous detections were made in Bureau, Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, LaSalle, McHenry, McLean and Will counties.

The emerald ash borer is a small, metallic-green beetle native to Asia. Its larvae burrow into the bark of ash trees, causing the trees to starve and eventually die.

While the beetle does not pose any direct risk to public health, it does threaten the tree population. Since the bug was first confirmed in the Midwest in the summer of 2002 – in the Detroit area – it has killed more than 25 million ash trees as it spread west and south.

The emerald ash borer is difficult to detect, especially in newly infested trees. The agriculture department recommends people watch for the beetles, which are about half the diameter of a penny, on or near ash trees showing signs of disease or stress.

Other signs of infestation in ash trees include D-shaped holes in the trunk bark, or branches and shoots growing from its base.

Anyone who suspects infestation is urged to contact either the local University of Illinois Extension office or village forester. For more information, visit http://www.IllinoisEAB.com.