By Kristin Rover
Officials with the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced plans to begin high-risk host tree removals in the East Fork Wildlife Area Sept. 16 as part of the Asian Longhorned Beetle Eradication program.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture, Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced their support of the program and the removals in the East Fork Wildlife Area the same day.
According to Dr. Phillip Baldauf, Asian longhorned beetle project manager for the United States Department of Agriculture, the wildlife area includes 2,705 acres of land that is not a part of the 4,870 acre East Fork State Park.
The high-risk host tree removals will be completed on 55 acres of the 2,705 acre wildlife area and will include approximately 7,200 high-risk host trees, Baldauf said.
“High-risk host trees in close proximity to infested trees have a high-risk of being infested,” Baldauf said. “We feel that high-risk host tree removal is and effective way to eradicate the Asian longhorned beetle.”
Baldauf said survey efforts are unfortunately never 100 percent accurate, and chemical treatments are not always effective.
“If you remove a tree it’s gone,” Baldauf said. “And it won’t be back to be infested or re-infested.”
Baldauf said they have not yet found an infested tree in the East Fork Wildlife Area or East Fork State Park. However, infestations have occurred on properties just outside of the wildlife area near the 55 acres they have selected for high-risk host tree removal.
Baldauf said the area where removals will take place is near portions of Sugar Tree Creek and Poplar Creek, located southeast of Woodruff Road and north of state Route 125.
Baldauf said that by moving forward with high-risk host tree removal in the wildlife area, they are hoping to prevent any infestations in the East Fork area.
“That’s really why we are doing this,” Baldauf said. “Is to prevent the park from being infested.”
Baldauf said when it comes to high-risk host tree removals, they are removing Asian longhorned beetle host trees and leaving trees that are not a host to the beetle.
Baldauf said host trees include maples, buckeyes, elms, poplars, ash trees and more. He said trees that are not hosts include oak trees, hickory trees, and more.
Brett Beatty, wildlife management supervisor for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said there may be some advantages that come from the tree removals in addition to preventing the spread of the beetle.
“I think there are going to be some pluses to this,” Beatty said.
Beatty said the host tree removals will enable the non-host trees including oak and hickory trees and other nut-producing trees, to grow in the area.
He said the environment after the trees are removed will also host a number of specific animals and plants including insects and animals that feed off of young vegetation.
“There is a whole host of species that can utilize early habitats,” Beatty said.
Baldauf said they have begun clearing an area for their equipment within the 55 acres where they will be removing host trees.
Baldauf said contractors, who are required to pass a species identification test, will identify the host species and remove them from the area.
He said if weather conditions are ideal, they expect to be finished with host tree removals in the East Fork Wildlife Area in about three months.
In addition to high-risk host tree removals, surveys and infested tree removals continue in the Clermont County area. Chemical treatments on high-risk host trees were completed earlier this summer.
The invasive insect was found in Tate Township in June of 2011.
Currently, the Ohio Asian longhorned beetle eradication program has surveyed more than 650,000 trees, has found 10,195 infested trees, and has removed 9,952 infested trees and 8,912 high-risk host trees.
For more information about the Asian longhorned beetle eradication program in Ohio contact the program office at (513) 381-7198 or visit www.beetlebusters.info.