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The Carletonian

Ash trees under seige in Minnesota

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Emerald Ash Borer, as you may or may not have heard, is one of the most imminent threats to the ecology of the Midwest. Yet, ‘threat’ may not be the correct word to use, as threats can be avoided or prevented. Experts predict that all of Minnesota will be inundated with the deadly beetles within the next decade, and there is truly nothing we can do to prevent it.

The Emerald Ash Borer is a species of tree boring beetle native to Asia and Eastern Russia, brought into the United States accidentally through lumber imports. The beetles will infest and eventually kill nearly all species of ash native to Minnesota. Since they were introduced, the beetles have no natural enemies here in the Midwest, meaning they can move essentially unimpeded.

Right now, the main goal of local governments is to slow the spread, though this has had limited success. The beetles themselves are strong fliers so even cutting down large swaths of ash to prevent movement has failed. Primarily governments, including Nancy Braker and the arboretum, are focusing their efforts on minimizing the impact of the beetles when they arrive. This includes preemptively cutting down weaker specimens of ash, and planting new species to hopefully fill the ecological gap left behind by the eradication of the ash. There are several methods to prevent infection of individual trees using specific pesticides sprayed on the ground near the tree, yet these are extremely expensive, costing several hundred dollars per tree through the course of the year. Moreover, these treatments will need to be done indefinitely. The Carleton Grounds Crew plans to use these chemical treatments on some of the more prominent and historic ash trees here on campus.

I understand that this was a depressing article, but that is the nature and the severity of this threat. Yet we are not entirely helpless. You can help slow the spread of the beetles by buying DNR treated and certified firewood when you go camping or make a fire up on the Hill of Three Oaks. There are also experiments being conducted on several islands in the Mississippi River near Lacrosse Wisconsin that are testing the use of parasitic wasps to kill the beetles. Extensive testing has been conducted to ensure that the beetles are the only host of the wasps. While these experiments are in their preliminary stages, experts are hopeful.

The Emerald Ash Borer is on its way to Northfield, yet if we’re diligent and do all we can to slow the spread, we may have a few more years with our beautiful green and black ash trees.

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