Our trees are under attack

2013-07-14T00:00:00Z Our trees are under attackPhil Wieland phil.wieland@nwi.com, (219) 548-4352 nwitimes.com

An army of tiny tree terrorists is bent on deforesting the state and the country.

Most people have heard about the emerald ash borer, which has been spreading slowly but surely across the country killing almost all the ash trees. The process will take several years, maybe decades, but other bugs are coming now that could destroy several other species of trees.

Phil Marshall, state entomologist and forest health specialist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, said the key to fighting the invasion is an army of alert citizens who can detect the tree terrorists early so they can be controlled.

The ash borer apparently arrived in the U.S. in wood pallets, and, while all the tree terrorists can travel easily on their own, they get help from people transporting firewood or from items bought at nurseries or from landscapers.

This is the prime time for tree terrorists as the adult bugs begin laying eggs that lead to the larva that do the damage. Marshall provided a "Most Wanted" list of tree-killing bugs, some of which have been seen in Indiana. The others are on our shores and could eventually begin wandering Indiana.

Marshall said the state has had good success fighting the gypsy moth, which has been seen in this area. It feeds on oaks first, then maples, hickories and just about any other species, feasting on the leaves. The female can't fly so she produces a pheromone to attract the males. The state uses pheromone traps to control them in most cases.

If the moths get out of hand, the state uses either a bacteria that only attacks the caterpillar or a pheromone flake. The flake is sprayed from planes and sticks to the leaves so the male moths end up looking for love in all the wrong places. They have not been see below U.S. 30, Marshall said.

The emerald ash borer already has destroyed thousands of trees or has led to area communities having to cut down hundreds more to prevent the spread of the beetle. The damage might not be apparent for a couple of years, and by then its too late to treat the tree.

An even worse threat could be the Asian longhorn beetle, which was seen in the Chicago area several years ago and recently showed up in the Cincinnati area but, so far, has not been found here. The inch-long beetle is black with white spots, bluish feet and long antenna.

It's first choice is maple trees, but it will happily inhabit a willow, elm, horse chestnut or birch and other species. They leave a round, half-inch diameter hole and dark-colored wet spots. Also look for wood shavings.

The hemlock woolly adelgid has been seen as close as New Buffalo, Mich., and one was even found in Northwest Indiana. They attach to twigs and suck the life from the tree.

The sudden oak death (SOD) is on the west coast and lives on rhododendrons, camellias and azaleas, but, given the chance, will move to oak trees. They were discovered in Porter County in 2006, but that infestation was destroyed. Another batch turned up in a South Bend nursery last year.

The thousand canker disease, which spreads in walnut trees, is a fungus carried by a twig beetle, destroying the trees a branch at a time. It has been rampant in the west and has been found in other locations around the country, including the Cincinnati area.

"The walnut is the most valuable forest tree we have," Marshall said. "We have veneer mills in Indiana that use it. We do now regulate the movement of black walnuts into Indiana."

A number of bark beetles, which are cousins to the ash borer, threaten oaks, and there are beetles that attack pine trees. The tulip tree scale has been found in southern Indiana, threatening our state tree by attaching to the twigs and sucking the sap.

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