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Park Point residents learn to battle ash borer

The emerald ash borer beetle.

With Park Point wood quarantined due to the discovery of the emerald ash borer, residents there have several options for what to do about their ash trees.

Residents can either treat their ash trees or cut them down. Duluth is opening an area today in the Park Point Recreation Area to chip wood residents want to dispose of because it can no longer be removed from the neighborhood.

Duluth is also working on a draft citywide emerald ash borer management plan that is expected to be released for public comment, said Pakou Ly, the city’s public information coordinator.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture implemented an emergency quarantine on Park Point in October when the emerald ash borer was found in four of 35 ash trees. A permanent quarantine is expected to take effect in the coming months, MDA entomologist Mark Abrahamson said.

The emerald ash borer was found early in its infestation — in the larval stage — on Park Point and the MDA is keeping its quarantine area small in an attempt to slow its progression into the rest of Duluth, Abrahamson said. He estimated that the insects arrived on Park Point last year.

The emerald ash borer was expected to be found in Duluth after the beetle was found in Superior two years ago.

“Duluth has always been considered a high-risk area for all the traffic that comes through ... you’ve got the port traffic so we’ve been doing some form of survey for probably 10 years now,” Abrahamson said.

He noted that although water provides a natural boundary for the emerald ash borer, Duluth residents should focus on slowing its infestation from Park Point into the rest of the city.

“At some point, it’s going to spread to other parts of Duluth, whether from Superior or somewhere. They’re able to fly so you can’t stop them forever,” he said.

Residents should keep an eye out for woodpeckers foraging that leave dime to quarter-size holes in ash trees or loose bark that’s split on an ash tree, both early signs that emerald ash borer larvae are tunneling in the tree, Abrahamson said.

Several considerations should be factored into the decision of whether to treat for emerald ash borer or cut down the ash trees, said Jeff Hahn, University of Minnesota Extension entomologist. Residents should consider the proximity of the infestation to their property, the health of their ash trees, the difficulty and expense in cutting them down, and the value and aesthetics they have for the resident.

Treatment is effective and can be done prior to an infestation or while the tree is infested, he said.

An entire county is typically quarantined when emerald ash borer is found, but the sheer size of St. Louis County makes a quarantine from Duluth to the Canadian border unmanageable. The plan is to instead split the county into sections to quarantine as the beetle moves in, said Kimberly Thielen Cremers, MDA’s pest mitigation and biocontrol unit supervisor.

“It’s a very large county. We have a very large black ash component, probably the largest in the state. We have a lot to lose and in jeopardy in regards to the movement of emerald ash borer throughout the county,” she said.

More information on the emerald ash borer and on the quarantine is available at mda.state.mn.us/eab.

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