USDA Biological Control Facility Seeks Ash Trees To Battle Emerald Ash Borer

Asks Landowners To Donate Infested Ash Trees

USDA staff cut a ‘bark window’ in green ash to uncover signs of emerald ash borer. Photo credit: USDA

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is asking Wisconsin landowners for their help. Emerald ash borer (EAB) is an invasive insect from Asia that was first introduced into the United States in 2002. Since its discovery, EAB has caused the death and decline of tens of millions of ash trees. USDA uses ash trees to combat the pest to help preserve and protect the tree species.

Wisconsin landowners have donated live, infested ash trees to USDA’s EAB biological control program. The wood is used to grow EAB’s natural enemies and release them in Wisconsin and 31 other infested States as well as D.C. where they are attacking and killing EAB. USDA needs more ash trees to continue this work and is hoping more Wisconsin residents will consider donating their ash trees this year.

The stingless wasp (Spathius agrili) lays up to 20 eggs on an emerald ash borer lava. Once the eggs hatch, the wasp larvae will feed on and eventually kill the host. Photo credit: USDA

Biological control helps to reduce pest populations by using natural enemies such as parasitoids (stingless wasps), predators, pathogens, antagonists (to control plant diseases) or competitors. It is a practical option to suppress pest populations and an environmentally sound method of pest control.

“Our facility in Brighton, Michigan, is one of a kind,” said Acting EAB Biocontrol Facility Manager Nicole Sawallich. “We produce almost a million wasps each year and provide them at no cost to our state cooperators for release. We’ve harvested EAB-infested ash in Michigan, Ohio, and last year in Wisconsin. Over the years we have had to travel farther to find the material we need.”

Staff look for live green ash stands where trees range in size from 8 to 20 inches in diameter and show significant decline, including cracked or loose bark, dead branches and thinning leaf canopy. They also look for damage from woodpeckers feeding on EAB larva. This season the staff will scout for potential properties in Eastern Wisconsin ranging from Sheboygan and Fond du Lac counties to Outagamie and Door counties.

A second wasp species, Tetrastichus planipennisi, lays its eggs inside emerald ash borer larvae where they feed and develop into red-eyed pupae before completing their lifecycle. Photo credit: USDA

“Right now, we are making phone calls to land managers to ask for their help in locating potential sites for harvesting ash trees in the fall,” said Biocontrol Field Team Leader Kyle Loughlin. “After we get some leads on sites, we’ll visit those locations this summer to determine if they meet the criteria and develop a schedule to begin harvesting sometime in December or January.”

Loughlin encourages interested property owners to call him so they can talk about donating their ash trees and he can answer their questions. “People call me because a neighbor or friend told them what we are doing,” he said. “I explain how the process works and what they can expect. There’s absolutely no pressure to make a decision, in fact I recommend that they take some time to think before they move forward. Even after they decide to donate their trees, they can still change their mind.”

USDA is interested in a minimum donation of 100 green ash trees per harvest site. USDA contractors will harvest trees weekdays between January and May at no cost to the landowner and will return the site, to the best of a contractor’s ability, to pre-harvest conditions.

Contact kyle.m.loughlin@usda.gov or 734-732-0025 for more information.

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