New insect invaders pose threat to Ohio forests
By Amy Forsthoefel
Remember the invasive species firestorm that swept through the region just a couple years ago with the emerald ash borer invasion? For many Dayton-area residents, it was the first time they ever heard the word “invasive species.” Thanks to efforts from conservationists, city planners, regional parks departments and state and national forestry services professionals, awareness spread and the beetle has passed through the region without completely wiping out Dayton’s ash population. Five Rivers MetroParks continues reforestation efforts to increase biodiversity and replace trees lost to the borer.
Unfortunately, there is a new threat on the horizon, and this new invader could have effects far more devastating than the emerald ash borer.
The Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) is another tree-eating invader whose palate is broader than one tree species. “The ALB feeds on a wide variety of native tree species, which have not developed natural defenses against the insect,” explained Conservation Director Dave Nolin. Species include birch, willow, hackberry, poplar, golden rain tree, London plane tree, maple, katsura, elm, mimosa and horse chestnut, as well as recovering ash species.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, more than 80,000 trees have been lost to ALB infection, and Ohio is one of three quarantined states where the beetle has been discovered. “State and federal agencies are in the process of eradicating the insect from Clermont County, not too far from Dayton,” Nolin said. “The good news is the ALB can’t fly as far as the EAB does, and by now many people have gotten the message that if you’re going to have a campfire, it’s best to burn where you buy it.”
The ALB is about 1-1.5 inches in length with a shiny black body and white spots. The insect’s eponymous long antennae also have white spots. Residents who think they have found an ALB are encouraged to report it. “Unlike the emerald ash borer, this beetle digs into the tree’s heartwood, where pesticides can’t reach. Once a tree’s infected, it’s gone,” Nolin said. “We have the opportunity to keep up with this pesky creature; today’s modern technology allows for faster, more efficient communication. If we have lots of people keeping an eye out for this beetle and reporting it when they see one, officials can handle the situation with greater ease.”
In September, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the Ohio Department of Agriculture, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began aggressive efforts to remove infested trees and eradicate the beetle in order to protect nearby East Fork State Park. According to APHIS, the eradication program will remove high-risk host trees up to a quarter mile from infested trees. Tree removals will take place on approximately 55 acres of the 2,705-acre designated state wildlife area. An estimated 7,200 high-risk host trees are expected to be removed. No trees are expected to be removed from 4,870-acre East Fork State Park.
The infested trees were detected on several private properties within Tate Township that abut the edges of the wildlife area. Infested trees were identified through tree inspection surveys conducted by eradication program staff as part of the ongoing ALB eradication efforts in Clermont County.
The use of high-risk host removals is part of an integrated approach in eradicating the invasive insect. High-risk host tree removals have been used in every State where ALB eradication operations have taken place – New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Ohio. ALB high-risk host tree removals began in Tate Township in May on properties where landowners have provided permission.
Like emerald ash borer, ALB arrived in the United States as a stow-away inside packing materials from its native China and Korea. “We live in a global economy,” Nolin said. “The fact is we cannot expect companies to stop shipping products back and forth between continents. The accidental introduction of foreign species has been an issue since the early explorers in the 15th and 16th centuries. But, we can take a note from team sports and remember that sometimes the best defense is a good offense. We can be vigilant about invading species that present a threat and be better stewards of our environment so these habitats have a chance to withstand an attack.”
Five Rivers MetroParks offers programs to help adults and children learn more about Ohio’s habitats and how to keep them healthy and vibrant. Upcoming programs include:
Fall Tree ID Workshop, 1-4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12, at Germantown MetroPark ($20)
Tikes Taking Action: Accruing Acorns, 10-11:30 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, at Taylorsville MetroPark (free)
MetroParks’ Forestry Workshop, 8 a.m. – noon Saturday, Oct. 26, Cox Arboretum MetroPark (free)
More programs can be found at metroparks.org or in the current issue of ParkWays (available in print at a MetroPark location or download).
Volunteering is another way to combat the effects of invasive species like ALB as well as improve the health of habitats to ward off future invasions. Visit metroparks.org/forests and click on the “Take Action” tab or the “Volunteer” tab at the top of the page to learn more about ways to get involved. Seedling Saturday fall tree planting dates are approaching. Join the reforestation team and other volunteer for a day of tree planting from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Nov. 2, at Germantown MetroPark, or Saturday, Nov. 16, at Carriage Hill MetroPark. These opportunities are free and appropriate for volunteers of all ages. Call 937.275.PARK for more information or to register.
For more information about Asian longhorned beetle, please visit atadianlonghornedbeetle.com. Get involved with Five Rivers MetroParks’ reforestation efforts at metroparks.org/forests.