Watch for forest-killing pests this month. You could help save some of Indiana's most important natural resources.
Citing the threat to Hoosier forests, Gov. Mitch Daniels has proclaimed August as inaugural Forest Pest Awareness Month. Indiana is one of 15 states teaming to educate citizens to identify and, more importantly, report suspected forest-killers in their communities.
The purpose of the declaration is to put the state's residents on alert during a time when signs of such threats tend to appear. During August, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and Purdue University encourage Hoosiers to look for and report suspected forest pests.
Emerald ash borer, which already has claimed thousands of ash trees in Fort Wayne, Huntington, northeast Indianapolis and elsewhere, is one example. An even bigger threat may be on the way.
Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) is an invasive pest from China that can kill up to half of the state's native hardwood trees. It was found last summer southeast of Cincinnati in Bethel, Ohio, 35 miles from the Indiana state line. This beetle likely entered the country in wood pallets. People can unknowingly transport this and other forest pests in their vehicles by moving firewood.
Since last November, when tree removals aimed at eradicating ALB began at the Ohio site, nearly 8,500 host trees have been destroyed.
"Alert citizens are the key to detecting pests like ALB before they get out of control," said Phil Marshall, state entomologist and director of the DNR Division of Entomology & Plant Pathology. "If ALB escapes into the forest, it will add to the devastation from emerald ash borer."
August is significant because it's show time for adult ALBs. Watch for a bug with an inch-long shiny black body with white spots, long black and white-striped antennae, and bluish feet. Maple, willow, elm, horse chestnut and birch trees are its favorite foods.
Signs of ALB include large perfectly round (half-inch diameter) exit holes and dark-colored wet spots on the bark of large tree branches and trunks. Wood shavings may also be seen in branch crotches or around the base of infested trees.
For more on ALB, see BeetleBusters.info. To report a suspected infestation, call DNR at 1-866-NO-EXOTIC[p1] (663-9684).
Thousand cankers disease (TCD) is another threat to watch for and report if seen. The disease targets black walnut trees. Indiana has 31.5 million black walnut trees, a potential $1.7 billion loss if infected. The disease is caused by a fungus and a tiny beetle. The state already bans imports of walnut products from states with confirmed infestations.
"Watch for dried, shriveled leaves clinging to dead branches in the tops of infected walnut trees," said Annemarie Nagle, Purdue's forest pest outreach coordinator. "There are not really other pests here that cause this symptom on walnuts."
As with ALB, August is show time for TCD. Drought causes similar symptoms to TCD's, but it's better to be safe than sorry and report suspicious trees to DNR at 1-866-NO-EXOTIC. More on TCD is at dnr.IN.gov/entomolo/6249.htm
"The public really is the first line of defense for our forests," Marshall said. "We hope Hoosiers remember not to move firewood, educate themselves about the damage these insects can do, and be on high alert for signs of these forest killers."
"If anyone sees the beetles or sees symptomatic trees, they should call DNR immediately."