The Glasgow Courier - Serving Proudly As The Voice Of Valley County Since 1913

By Bonnie Davidson
The Courier 

Small Pest, Big Destruction

Valley County Bracing For Tree Killing Beetles


Bonnie Davidson / The Courier

Shelley Mills, Valley County MSU Extension agent, explains to the those who attended the Emerald Ash Borer workshop how to properly plant trees by thinning out the roots.

It might be a shock, but there is a destroyer that comes in a small package. It might not bring in panic, fires and complete mayhem, but it will and has cost millions and can make a large nuisance for cities and tree lovers. If you haven't heard about the Emerald Ash Borer, it's most likely because you haven't been around the East Coast and seen the local newspapers.

The small green metallic beetle came across the ocean. How it got here isn't certain but the beetle native to Asia may have hitched a ride on wooden pallets. It's thought it got here around 2002. No one figured out right away why all the Ash trees were dying, but eventually it came to light that a small pest underneath the bark was the murderer. It's now been found in 22 states and in Canada. While it's not in Montana yet, it has been found in North Dakota and Colorado.

"This could be one of the most devastating insects in North America," Laurie Kerzicnik from Montana State University said at the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) workshop that took place Wednesday, Sept. 24.

Just over a dozen people attended the workshop to learn about the devastating impact the insect has had and to learn about how the county and city might prepare for the arrival of the beetle. Kerzicnik explained that the beetle usually only spreads about 10 miles in a year, but the beetle is moving much farther and more quickly than it should.

The beetle attacks not only the sick and diseased Ash trees, it attacks the healthy ones too. Kerzicnik explained the biology of the bug and the types of signs the beetle might leave in an Ash tree. The beetle doesn't stray to other trees, but it does attack any and all Ash trees. She said that the beetle had already devastated cities like Detroit and was doing it's damage in Minneapolis, where cities have several Ash trees planted in parks, cemeteries and along boulevards.

So how is this beetle traveling so far, so quickly? Experts believe that firewood being hauled from state to state are carrying the bugs across the nation. Trees in North America have no resistance on the bug that feeds on the living tissue of the tree, causing it to block nutrition to travel from the roots to the canopy.

Kerzicnik explained that 21 different species are in our country and agencies are looking at ways to stop the spread of the bug. She informed everyone who attended the workshop what other types of insects might attack your Ash trees and other beetles that look similar.

Shayne Galford explained how regulations in other states have been working to keep the beetle contained, but how the public is really the only way they'll be able to at least slow down the spread. Galford works under the USDA under the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and with the Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) programs. He said that currently the beetle hasn't been confirmed in Montana, but that it still could be established without knowing it. The EAB can take up to five years to detect.

"We need to be proactive and look for it, we can do that by educating the public," Galford said.

He stressed the need to keep firewood where you find it. He stated several times to, "burn it where you buy it." Keeping the wood from crossing state lines can help keep the insect quarantined but he said that creating regulations and enforcing them can be difficult.

He urged the public to buy traps to help detect EAB. He stated that the traps weren't extremely effective on finding the beetle, but they were still working on ways to detect the beetle sooner. He said one of the more effective ways to detect the beetle was to cut a few limps off the tree and take the bark off the limb to find bugs or "galleries," zig-zagging trails that show proof the beetle has made it's way toward the trunk from the canopy.

The next step to responding to the insect is to create a plan before the insect makes an impact in Montana. Those who presented urged the public and local governments to come up with a plan. Removing unhealthy Ash trees could help prevent the spread. Ian Foley, of the Montana Department of Agriculture, told those at the workshop that the potential cost for the loss of trees nationwide is estimated between $50 and $60 billion in economic losses. Funds to fight the EAB from the USDA has been slashed in the last year, going from it's peak in 2009 of over $34,000 to just over $10,000 in 2013. The funding only covers surveyors searching for the bug and goes towards quarantine management.

Areas in Montana are already being surveyed to keep an eye on the presence of EAB. Foley said that Helena, Bozeman, or Missoula might possibly have more Ash trees for city foliage than any other city in the nation and that the cities will be devastated without prevention or a plan for EAB. Minneapolis put a plan in place to remove and replace several of their trees over a span of several years. They are just finding out how effective that plan may be. Other cities did noting and were left with neighborhoods left treeless.

Trees can also be treated with chemicals and some areas have seen some success with treatment. The city of Glasgow possibly has around 20 percent of Ash trees placed throughout the town. Foley highly suggested taking an inventory of trees and where they were placed and coming up with a plan. Maybe removing and replacing unhealthy Ash trees in advance and deciding which trees could possibly treated with chemicals.

For more information you can reach your local MSU Extension Agent, Shelley Mills, at 406-228-6241. You can also visit, or call Galford at the State Plant Health Director's Office at 406-449-5210. Samples of insects can be collected in a jar or container and placed in the freezer and sent into a lab for identification, be sure to include a description of the location and tree the sample was found.


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