Small bug, big problem in Walworth County
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WALWORTH COUNTY Experts estimate that the emerald ash borer can fly up to one-quarter mile and cover nearly 15 total miles during its summer lifespan.
Unfortunately for residents in Walworth County and elsewhere in Wisconsin, the destructive Asian beetles are chewing up ash trees at an increasingly worrisome rate -- and a big reason why is because the pesky invaders have taken advantage of free rides from vacation travelers carrying firewood and industries transporting infested wood products.
(Read all of this week's stories from Walworth County Sunday HERE. )
The dark metallic-green, bullet-shaped, half-inch long beetles were discovered in Michigan in 2002 and have spread to about 15 states and Canada.
“The risk is higher in Walworth County and southeastern Wisconsin because it’s a transportation corridor with a lot of vacation homes, camping properties and industry,” said Mick Skwarok, public information officer for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. “Those are big, red flags for the introduction of EAB.”
First found in the Badger State in 2008, the beetles have established known feeding areas in 13 counties, including 10 contiguous in southeastern Wisconsin. Fifteen counties, including Walworth and Rock, are under quarantine, which prohibits the movement of all hardwood species of firewood, nursery stock, green lumber or ash wood logs, stumps, roots, branches or chips from these counties.
EAB was first found in Walworth County on a private woodlot near the state line in the town of Walworth on June 7. The next confirmation occurred when Jonathan Foster, a Lake Geneva city worker who spends part of his time as city forester, discovered an infested tree while pruning June 11.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ Forest Health Department has confirmed EAB at several other locations since: Big Foot Beach State Park in Fontana on June 25, the town of Linn on the border with the village of Williams Bay on Aug. 8 and several trees near the 200 block of Edwards Boulevard in Lake Geneva, about a mile from the first detection in the city.
“This bug is hard to spot because it usually attacks the upper canopy of the trees,” Foster said. “We’ve got about 300 ash trees that the city is responsible for, and we finished treating about half of them. But it took us quite awhile to finish this process because many of the trees, especially the bigger ones, were still in conservation mode and not absorbing like they typically would because of the drought conditions.”