March 25, 2024

Landowners Asked to Donate Infested Ash Trees

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is asking Wisconsin landowners for their help in fighting the Emerald ash borer (EAB). The pest is an invasive insect from Asia that was first detected in the United States in 2002. Since its discovery, EAB has caused the death and decline of tens of millions of ash trees. USDA is using ash trees to combat the pest. And to help preserve and protect ash as a viable part of North American landscapes. They are asking Wisconsin landowners to donate live, infested ash trees.

Wisconsin landowners have donated infested ash trees to the USDA for several years now. The trees are used by the EAB biological control program in a crucial first step to rear parasitoids. These are EAB’s natural enemies. Once grown, the parasitoids are released in infested areas so they attack and kill EAB. To date releases have occurred in 32 states, including Wisconsin, as well as D.C. The USDA needs more ash trees to continue this work. And hope that Wisconsin residents will consider donating their ash trees this year.

Biological control, such as the EAB parasitoids, help reduce pest populations by using nature’s enemies. EAB parasitoids, which are stingless wasps, serve as predators to suppress populations. It is an environmentally sound method of pest control.

“Our biological control facility in Michigan, is one of a kind,” said Acting EAB Biocontrol Facility Manager Nicole Sawallich. “We rear almost a million parasitoid wasps each year and provide them at no cost to our partners for release. We’ve harvested EAB-infested ash in Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. And we continue to need Wisconsin’s help.”

USDA staff is looking for live green ash stands. Where trees range in size from 8 to 20 inches in diameter. And show a significant decline, including cracked or loose bark, dead branches, and thinning leaf canopy. Even looking for damage from woodpeckers feeding on EAB larvae. Staff will look for potential properties in eastern central Wisconsin. Ranging from Manitowoc to Waushara counties and Kewaunee to Portage counties.

“Right now, we are following up on leads for public land areas. They could be potential sites for our ash tree harvest,” said Acting Biocontrol Field Team Leader Caleb Burden. “We spend the summer visiting these sites to determine if the trees fit the necessary criteria. If they do, we mark them for harvest. And we harvest in mid to late January.”

Burden wants property owners to call him if they are interested in donating, “I can explain how the process works and what they can expect. There’s no pressure in deciding. I recommend property owners take their time to think it over. And we can work with people who have their land in Managed Forest Law agreements.”

USDA is interested in a minimum donation of 100 green ash trees per harvest site. USDA contractors will harvest trees between January and March at no cost to the landowner. And they will do their best to reduce impacts to the surrounding land.

Green ash tree with EAB larval feeding on tree
Green ash tree with small piece of bark cut back shows emerald ash borer larval feeding on the tree.