Emerald ash borer infests Prospect Park

Minneapolis will remove up to 400 ash trees in the upcoming months.

Alex Holmquist

Prospect Park is the latest neighborhood to fall victim to a pesky insect that makes its home in ash trees. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture confirmed an infestation of emerald ash borer Thursday in Tower Hill Park. The emerald ash borer is an exotic beetle that feeds off nutrients in ash trees and essentially starves the trees to death, said Michael Schommer, MDA communications director. âÄúIt is 100 percent lethal once the bug is infested,âÄù he said. The beetle has killed millions of ash trees in 13 states, according to the MDA. Schommer said Minnesota is home to about 900 million ash trees, the second highest number of any state. Managers at the University of Minnesota golf course began removing ash trees last fall to prevent the beetle from spreading. The first emerald ash borer infestation in the metro area was discovered in May, and another beetle was found near the St. Paul campus in November. The recent outbreak prompted plans to remove up to 400 ash trees in Minneapolis during the upcoming months, said Jim Hermann, forestry program manager for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. Schommer said that although these efforts will slow the spread of the beetles, it wonâÄôt eradicate the problem. âÄúItâÄôs a matter of slowing the spread to try to buy time for the rest of the state,âÄù Schommer said. Schommer said diversifying landscaping will help prevent future outbreaks. For this reason, the city of Minneapolis has not planted ash trees in the past five years, Hermann said. Dick Poppele, Prospect Park East River Road Improvement Association president, said that although the discovery could have an impact in Prospect Park, he doesnâÄôt anticipate it will be significant. âÄúOur urban forest in Prospect Park is pretty well diversified,âÄù Poppele said. âÄúThere are a lot of green ash and white ash in the park, but theyâÄôre not the dominant species.âÄù Hermann said the outbreak in Minneapolis wasnâÄôt a major surprise after the discovery of the beetle in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood last year. The beetles can fly up to two miles each year. Because of its close proximity, Hennepin County was included in an initial quarantine that remains in place as of this year. The quarantine prohibits transportation of materials that could potentially be infested with emerald ash borer, such as ash trees, ash tree limbs and all hardwood firewood, Schommer said. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has taken other steps to help slow the spread, such as banning people from bringing their own firewood into state parks, Schommer said. âÄúFirewood is one of the most risky vectors for this pest,âÄù he said. Residents should watch for suspicious-looking beetles on ash trees or signs of declining health in the trees, both of which are indicators of a possible infestation, Schommer said.