By Megan Alley
Officials from the Asian Longhorned Beetle Eradication program will begin using an insecticide to thwart infestations from the non-native species.
Imidacloprid, a systemic insecticide that is injected into trees, will be used as part of a treatment study put forth by the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Ohio Department of Agriculture, the two agencies leading the program.
The insecticide has been sold in the United States since 1994 and is commonly used to control agricultural and residential insect pests, such as aphids, cockroaches, termites, soil insects, thrips, whiteflies, rice hoppers and some beetles. It’s also used to prevent fleas and tick on pets, according to a press release.
Imidacloprid is a registered pesticide under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, and it is approved for ALB eradication program use, according to a press release.
Since the program began in 2011, 84,083 trees have been cut down in Clermont County’s main quarantine areas, which are all of Tate Township, all of East Fork State Park and portions of the East Fork Wildlife Area.
The most common trees that are being cut are maple, elm and buckeye.
Of the total trees that have been cut, 16,951 were infested with ALB; the remaining 67,132 were determined to be “high risk host trees” and were cut down as a preventative measure, according to Rhonda Santos, public information officer for the program.
She noted that program representatives are required to get permission from property owners to cut down any “high risk host trees.”
Members of the Bethel Asian Longhorned Beetle Citizens Cooperative, Inc., who have expressed concern with the number of non-infested trees that have been cut down, hope the study will reduce over-cutting.
“This is something we fought years for; in lieu of them cutting,” said Pat Hornak, secretary for the cooperative and co-owner of Harmony Hill Vineyards in Bethel, which is in the center of the quarantine area. “This is a plus for us.”
Hornak is a licensed insecticide applicator, and she has successfully treated 50 trees on her 70-acre property, as well as trees in Burke Park in the village of Bethel.
“I would like to think that our constant badgering for it has made a difference and had some sort of effect on them going and doing this,” she said.
Members of the cooperative have also worked with local government leaders, including Congressman Brad Wenstrup, to encourage the program’s use of the insecticide.
“It’s a joint effort of people who have petitioned to have this done,” Hornak added.
The study is focused on using the insecticide in small geographic areas, rather than throughout the quarantine buffer or zone, according to Santos.
“This treatment study is really about isolated, smaller targeted areas and seeing if we can use treatment in these smaller areas and if it really does prevent those host trees from becoming infested,” Santos explained.
Program officials have identified properties that are eligible for the treatment; suitable properties were identified as those that are located away from the core infestation area, have had multiple infested trees removed from the property within the past two years and have had numerous host trees exist within twenty meters from the previously infested trees, according to a press release.
“We would like to see it used in the core,” Hornak said. “We’ve been hit the hardest, and we’ve gotten nothing in return.”
Representatives from the program are currently reaching out to eligible property owners for permission to participate in the study. As of June 20, five property owners have committed to the study, one of which has had the treatment started, according to Santos.
Insecticide treatments will be administered for three years using direct trunk injection in the spring and/or early summer, according to a press release. Scientists with APHIS’ Center for Plant Health Science and Technology will conduct the treatments, and treated trees will be surveyed after leaf drop and at the end of the study.
The study’s treatment method and insecticide are the same as those used in the Monroe Township and Stonelick/Batavia Township quarantine areas in 2013, 2014 and 2015, according to a press release.
“I can’t speculate about what the results will be from the study, because we don’t know; we’re just beginning,” Santos said. “But, I will say that we know that folks in Tate Township have been wanting treatment, and this is a perfect opportunity to take advantage of a study that would see if we could treat trees on a smaller scale.”
Those interested in learning more about the insecticide treatment study are invited to the Bethel Council meeting on July 14. Officials from the USDA will be on hand to hear concerns and answer questions, Hornak said.
Program officials also announced that they have contracted with two new tree removal services, Beach’s Trees Selective Harvesting, headquartered in Cincinnati, and Sidelines Tree Service headquartered in Oakdale, Pennsylvania.
The program’s contract with Davey Tree Expert Company, headquartered in Cincinnati, expired in May and was not renewed.
The change was initiated as a “small business initiative,” according to Santos, who noted that Davey Tree Expert Company is a subcontractor of Beach’s Trees Selective Harvesting.