DES MOINES, Iowa – The city of Des Moines starts final stage of a project by its forestry division that’s fighting an invasive beetle.
The emerald ash borer is an Asian beetle that kills ash trees.
According to city of Des Moines’ Urban Forestry Project Manager Shane McQuillian four years ago the city started a project to temporarily protect the trees from this insect.
“The city of Des Moines we have a multi-stage program where we have been removing two thirds of the trees, treating a third of the trees and we are moving in to the final stage where we are removing the last of the treatment trees outside a small amount and also we have a program where people are allowed to treat their trees if they feel they want to,” McQuillian said.
In the last four years the city has removed thousands of ash trees.
The EAB first showed up in northeast Iowa ten years ago. According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources there are currently 52 million woodland ash trees and 1.5 million urban ash trees in the state.
Iowa DNR Forest Health Program Leader Tivon Feeley said EAB is now in 71 counties across the state.
“Last year we mapped out just a little over a million acres of dead and dying ash trees,” Feeley said.
Feeley said people can either treat their ash tree or get rid of it depending on its condition.
“It’s a tough situation and I know it’s largely a personal one, because there is no cure. It’s something we have to live with,” Feeley said.
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship have started a tree pest project in six counties that brings in three types of Asian wasps that kills the insects eggs.
“Their goal is to help bring down the population of the emerald ash borer, slow the spread and give researchers time to find possibly a resistant tree that we can use for a breeding program,” Feeley said.
Iowa saw the majority of its elm trees killed by the Dutch elm disease in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Feeley said many ash trees ended up replacing the elm trees.
“Every time there is something planted we should always diversify so if a pest comes in we don’t lose everything all at once,” Feeley said.
McQuillan said Des Moines plans to plant a variety of species in place of where the ash trees once stood.
Ash trees have a small impact on wildlife, which uses it as a food source. It is also a nesting tree for wood ducks.