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Arts & Life

Expert cautions against moving firewood infested with emerald ash borer

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State of South Dakota

The interview posted above is from SDPB’s daily public affairs show, In the Moment with Lori Walsh.

The emerald ash borer, an invasive species native to northeastern Asia, has been detected in Minnehaha and Lincoln County. The newest identification was confirmed near Crooks in Minnehaha County.

John Ball, a South Dakota State University Extension forestry specialist and professor, says the Crooks infestation is relatively young, only dating back two years. He identified the infestation after being contacted by the Crooks landowner.

“Every year, the beetle makes a gallery in the newest wood, so you can just kind of count the rings and figure out how long the beetle has been there,” Ball said.

Ball says tree owners can identify an emerald ash borer infestation by looking for woodpecker holes, as they like to eat the insects.

Infected trees will also show signs of “blonding,” where the outside bark of the tree has been stripped away by the woodpecker as it searches for ash borers.

Ball added that infestations can spread quickly, as the affected trees in Crooks are already beyond saving.

He also cautioned against moving any raw ash wood, like firewood, outside of counties with confirmed infestations. The Crooks infestation appears to have started from infested firewood.

“It’s really hard to stop once it gets started,” Ball said. “The best thing to do is, as you mentioned, let’s not move ash wood around even within a county.”

Minnehaha, Lincoln and Turner counties have year-round quarantines for ash wood. It is also illegal to transport firewood out of these counties.

Emerald ash borers were first discovered in the United States in Michigan in 2002.