Ohio prepares for new wave of tree-killing beetle
CINCINNATI—State agriculture officials are preparing for a new wave of tree-killing beetles that have infested southwest Ohio and other areas of the country to re-emerge.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service predicts that Asian longhorned beetles, which have been feeding for much of the past year under the bark of trees, are about to emerge again in Clermont County east of Cincinnati.
State agriculture officials say they are taking added precautions, including requiring trucks to be covered with tarps when hauling infested trees to a site where woody material is chipped down enough to prevent the beetles from surviving, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
The midterm state budget finalized last week by the Ohio House and Senate includes $2 million for eradicating the beetle and for reforestation programs. The bill, which has been sent to Gov. John Kasich, does not specify how the money would be spent, but the Ohio Department of Agriculture plans to take a close look to determine the best use of the money, said Erica Pitchford, of the state agency.
Population levels for the beetles should be drastically reduced from last year because more than 7,000 infested trees have been removed, said Christine Markham, national director of the USDA's Asian longhorned beetle program.
But Markham says it's impossible to estimate the size of this year's population.
"We continue to survey, and we continue to find infested trees," Markham said.
Agriculture officials have surveyed about 116,000 trees in Clermont County's Tate and Monroe townships since last July, confirming nearly 8,300 infested trees and removing 7,400.
Since 1997, Congress has appropriated $463 million for Asian longhorned beetle eradication nationally, according to Markham.
The bullet-shaped, white-spotted black beetles tunnel into trees in the larval stage, eventually cutting off water and nutrients. They're especially attracted to maple trees, but 12 other types -- including willows, poplars and elms -- can be hosts for the bugs, creating a serious threat to forests and the timber industry.
The beetle can be difficult to detect, and well-trained individuals looking at trees from the ground detect, on average, about 30 percent of lightly infested trees, Joe Boggs, an assistant professor with Ohio State University Extension and OSU's entomology department, has said. He says trained climbers detect about 70 percent.
An environmental assessment released this month by the federal Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service lists a plan that would cut down every tree infested with the beetles and every other healthy tree they could attack in a half-mile radius as the most effective option for destroying the beetles, The Columbus Dispatch reported. Two other options in the plan would treat at least some healthy trees with a protective pesticide. The public has until July 9 to comment on the options.
Some residents concerned about losing healthy trees have said they want to combine removal of infested trees with chemical treatments of potential host trees.
The beetles, discovered last summer in Clermont County, are believed to have arrived from wooden materials in cargo shipments from Asia. Federal officials say the first U.S. infestation was discovered in 1996 in Brooklyn. Infestations in other parts of New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Illinois have resulted in the removal of tens of thousands of trees.