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Trees Felled Near Summit Avenue Now Part of Emerald Ash Borer Research

ST. PAUL, MINN, September 29, 2011 - Six ash trees cut down near Summit Avenue this week after the discovery of a new infestation of emerald ash borer (EAB) in St. Paul will not go to waste.

Samples from the trees’ trunks and large branches will be shared by researchers with the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), and the University of Minnesota for use in a wide range of studies.

Dr. Rob Venette, a research biologist with the Northern Research Station in St. Paul, will use EAB larvae taken from the St. Paul wood samples to study the insect’s cold tolerance, which will help predict which areas of the state are vulnerable to infestation. With MDA scientists, Venette is also evaluating the cold tolerance of parasitoid wasps that have been introduced in Minnesota and other states to control the EAB population. Scientists at the University of Minnesota will use EAB larvae to study the ability of the wasps to disperse and find new EAB larvae to attack.

“All of this information is going to help us better manage EAB in the short run and in the long run,” Venette said.

Extracting EAB larvae from trees is neither fast nor easy. Graduate students from the University of Minnesota will probably spend a month carefully peeling bark from tree samples and digging out larvae in Venette’s lab.

A variety of studies are evaluating not only the insects but the effectiveness of the local response to EAB infestations. Venette and scientists from the University of Minnesota and the MDA are collaborating on a 300-tree monitoring study in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area to determine the net impact of EAB control strategies, including biological control. The project, which is funded in part by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, involves monitoring ash trees across the Twin Cities for EAB over the next 3-5 years to see if trees become infested and, if so, when they become infested. Research is also evaluating how effective it is to remove EAB-infested trees to lower the numbers of EAB.

“We are excited about the opportunity to improve emerald ash borer management in Minnesota,” according to Brian Aukema, forest entomologist at the University of Minnesota.

Scientists are taking care that their work is not contributing to the spread of EAB. Wood samples from St. Paul were only moved within Ramsey County. Because the insects are flightless this time of year, there is no threat of the insect escaping during transit. After EAB larvae have been extracted in Venette’s lab, the wood will be heat treated to kill any insects that might have been overlooked by researchers. Large pieces of wood will then be chipped.

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. The mission of the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station is to improve people’s lives and help sustain the natural resources in the Northeast and Midwest through leading-edge science and effective information delivery.