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Scary green alien trapped by government official

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Yep, you read that right. Aliens are threatening Perry County’s borders. No longer the stuff of science fiction, the metallic green aliens with large eyes, long flat backs and numerous legs have found us.

But don’t run panicking into the streets just yet, scanning the skies for UFOs. Instead, look closely at your woodpiles, the bundles of firewood for sale, the beautiful ash trees shading your front yards.

You may need to pull out a magnifying glass. The alien you’re searching for is smaller than your fingernail. In fact, about a half-dozen of the little guys can fit onto the face of a penny.

In case you missed it, Gov. Pence declared this week Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week in Indiana, joining governors of several other affected states that also officially observe it.

Typically, only big issues garner this kind of formal recognition. But does a little bug not much larger than a grain of rice really deserve all the fuss? You bet it does.

Indiana’s nearly150 million ash trees are dying by the thousands, and despite federal, state and city efforts to prevent the spread of this tiny tree killer, its range is increasing and its destruction spreading. The ramifications are huge and have economic and environmental impacts.

A study of the insect’s range map reveals that EAB is now present in the majority of Indiana counties and moving south. Last March’s quarantine map showed Perry County as EAB free, but earlier this spring, an adult beetle was discovered inside of a three-sided panel trap along State Highway 37 near the Indian-Celina Campground.

The baited traps are part of a detection survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal Plant Health Inspection Service and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

According to Purdue University entomologists, the traps are useful in alerting the agencies to the presence of the insect much earlier on.

Chris Thornton, forest silviculturist with the Hoosier National Forest, said the shade-intolerant ash trees – the only host of the beetle and its larvae – make up about 4 to 6 percent of the trees within the forest, and are found mostly along the forest edges where they have access to sunlight.

Ash is also a popular shade tree for residential homes and in city parks. Its lumber is hard and durable and is used to make tool handles, oars, baseball bats furniture and flooring.

So, Perry County, what can we do to slow the spread of this uninvited guest? Most importantly, don’t move firewood. Buy and harvest from local sources only, preferably only kiln-dried firewood, and, as the USDA implores, burn it where you buy it. The bug moves slowly on its own, but with the help of humans moving it as firewood and ash nursery stock, it continues to spread quickly and destructively.

It’s really the larvae that do the brunt of the damage, hatching and boring through the inner tissue of the trees. Larvae are creamy white and have flat segmented bodies. They feed under ash tree bark from mid-summer through spring, eventually killing the tree.

Materials published by Purdue University state the emerald ash borer came from Asia to Detroit in the early 1990s in shipping material made from ash wood.

Thousands of ash trees died, and since then it has spread to several states and parts of Canada, where it has killed millions of ash trees. The 2006 U.S. Forest Service statewide urban forest assessment program revealed that 2 million ash trees, worth approximately $2.9 billion in replacement costs, were growing in Indiana cities. In some places, nearly half of urban tree plantings are ash.

The governor’s proclamation states: “Whereas 147 million ash trees blanket the great state of Indiana, enhancing our state’s air and water quality, natural landscapes, recreational destinations, wildlife habitats, tourism, manufacturing, commerce and property-land values Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week is an opportunity for the government to join forces with business, industry, environmental groups, community organizations, tourists, and citizens to take action against the spread and introduction of the insect.”

So, before you venture into the campgrounds and woods this spring and summer, do your part to stop the spread. We have a lot to lose if we choose not to care.

Scout leaders, teachers and parents can find cool activities and summer camp info for kids at www.stopthebeetle.info.

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