DES MOINES, Iowa – With winter starting to lessen its grip on Iowa and more people venturing outside, there’s a reminder that all 99 counties are now under restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the emerald ash borer, an exotic insect which kills valuable ash trees. The quarantine was issued by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and prohibits taking wood and ash-tree products out of state, according to state entomologist Robin Pruisner.
“And what that means is that we’re looking at high-risk items like ash logs, hardwood firewood – we call those regulated articles – that those that originate in Iowa must stay within Iowa, must stay within the quarantine boundaries to reduce the risk of spreading emerald ash borer.”
The destructive emerald ash borer has been discovered in eight Iowa counties thus far, and Pruisner says it’s likely that more infestations of the bugs will be found before the trees even leaf out this spring.
While the quarantine prohibits transportation out of state, Pruisner said they’re urging Iowans to keep it even more local, especially when it comes to firewood.
“Kind of the rule of thumb is, we’d like to see it maybe stay in the county that it originates from. We know that’s not always possible, but firewood does carry other pests than emerald ash borer and we’re just trying to slow the spread.”
For landowners wondering whether their ash trees may be in danger, there are signs that may indicate an infestation. They include emergence holes shaped like the letter “D” and serpentine or “S-shaped” tunnels under the bark. Iowa State University entomologist Mark Shour said that at this time of year, woodpeckers can help point the way to the bugs.
“They will go after a borer, whether it be a native or an exotic borer, beneath the bark of trees,” he said. “And in our case they’ve been very helpful in locating emerald ash borer infestations when we weren’t aware of them.”
Shour said there are a few treatment options, but they can take years to be effective against the emerald ash borer – and just because a tree can be treated doesn’t mean it should be.
Those with questions or concerns about a possible infestation can contact the Iowa DNR or Department of Agriculture or an office of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
More information is at IowaAgriculture.gov and at Extension.IAState.edu.