SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois Department of Agriculture says the emerald ash borer has spread to the point that a nearly 10-year-old ban on in-state transportation of firewood is no longer justified.
The destructive beetle, first detected in Kane County in 2006, is now found in 60 of Illinois’ 102 counties.
“There’s a point where it’s too widespread and the quarantine just doesn’t make sense anymore,” Agriculture Department plant and pesticide specialist Scott Schirmer said Wednesday.
The beetle’s larvae burrow into the bark of ash trees, starving and killing the trees. Signs of infestation include thinning and yellowing leaves, and D-shaped holes in the bark of the trunk or branches and basal shoots. Efforts were made in 2006 to eradicate the beetle by cutting trees before quarantine efforts began in 2007 to try to minimize the spread.
Despite the change in state policy, ash tree owners are encouraged to manage their trees and apply insecticide treatments as a preventive measure, Schirmer said.
Since its first detection near Detroit in 2002, the Asian beetle has killed nearly 200 million ash trees in Illinois alone, Schirmer said. He noted that within the last two years, Missouri, Iowa and Kentucky have ended their in-state ban on the transportation of firewood and ash trees.
“We’re surrounded by states that have deregulated the emerald ash borer, which is going to allow the bug to move up to our border,” he said.
Illinois is still part of a federal quarantine, which includes 25 states plus the District of Columbia. Firewood cannot pass from quarantined to un-quarantined states, and officials are discouraging people from bringing their own firewood when they travel.
According to Schirmer, the borer is now so widespread in Illinois that it became difficult to regulate portions of counties and to determine the source of the infestation.
“It could have blown in from Missouri for all we knew,” Schirmer said.
The agriculture department will continue to work with local governments but will no longer be placing the purple traps used to capture the beetles and track infestations, officials said.
Department of Agriculture interim director Warren Goetsch said in a statement that while the transport quarantine has been lifted, caution still should be used.
“I urge people to consider the potential impacts of their actions, in general, before they move items like firewood,” Goetsch said.
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