SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today announced a plan of action to help control the emerald ash borer (EAB) in Illinois. The plan will utilize a $7.6 million commitment from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), earmarked for Illinois and Wisconsin to fight the destructive insect. The Governor has also created a management and science advisory team charged with providing advice to the Illinois Department of Agriculture on EAB surveys, regulatory action, control and removal as well as outreach and education. The emerald ash borer is a small, metallic-green beetle native to Asia that can invest and eventually kills Ash trees. Illinois is home to 130 million ash trees.
“Emerald Ash Borer is a very real problem that we take very seriously. Anything that has the potential to threaten the health of hundreds of thousands – even millions – of ash trees has to be dealt with immediately and thoroughly. We’re going to invest the time and resources to do just that,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
Federal funds will be used to hire additional staff, continue EAB survey in infested areas, remove trees and conduct outreach and education. The advisory committee, comprised of experts from the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, USDA – Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, USDA-Forest Service, University of Illinois and the Morton Arboretum will refine action plans and guide control and removal efforts as well as work with local communities battling the emerald ash borer. This team is an extension of the EAB Readiness Team that has been preparing for the emerald ash borer for the last two-and-a-half years.
In order to get a better on handle on the potential impact and resources needed to combat EAB, Illinois Agriculture Director Chuck Hartke and Warren Goetsch, his Division Manager of Natural Resources, traveled to Michigan this week to meet with officials and survey the damage.
“Since the emerald ash borer was first found in Michigan in 2002, the state has lost 15 million ash trees and expended millions to try and control the problem,” Agriculture Director Chuck Hartke said. “During our visit we saw the damage EAB can cause first hand. We also met with federal and local officials to discuss what’s worked for them and what hasn’t, innovative methods of tree removal, the development of traps and the success of the educational efforts. We came away with a better understanding of what we’re up against and effective ways to face it.”
So far, EAB infestations have been confirmed east of Lily Lake in Kane County and in Wilmette and Evanston in Cook County. A 51 square mile area has been quarantined to contain the infestation in Kane County. Survey work is underway in Cook County to determine the extent of damage in Wilmette and Evanston.
“Our next steps will be expanded survey and possible tree removal in the affected areas,” Goetsch said. “To this point we have not advised the removal of any trees because of the beetle’s flight season. If you remove trees during this time, there is a greater risk of EAB spreading to other trees and communities. After Labor Day, it will be safe to begin the removal process and the additional funding could help cover some of those cost that otherwise may have fallen on the homeowner.”
EAB’s larvae burrow into the bark of ash trees, causing the trees to starve and eventually die. The emerald ash borer typically moves only short distances by flying, but can survive long distances in transit on ash nursery stock, ash logs, branches and firewood. To avoid the accidental introduction of the beetle to new areas, people are advised to purchase only locally-grown nursery stock and locally-cut firewood.
The emerald ash borer is difficult to detect in newly-infested trees. Signs of infestation include the presence of metallic-green beetles about half the diameter of a penny on or around ash trees, thinning and yellowing leaves, D-shaped holes in the bark of the trunk or branches and shoots growing from the base of the tree. Anyone who suspects a tree has been infested is urged to first contact their county Extension office or village forester. The Illinois Department of Agriculture also will offer a toll-free hotline at 800-641-3934 for extension-confirmed infestations.