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What destructive creatures thrive in summer after warmer winters??

todayJune 14, 2024 3

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — It’s summer and among us, small destructive creatures are thriving from mild, winter temperatures in South Dakota.

“Warmer winters provide a better habitat for Emerald Ash Borers (EAB) to reproduce, move, lay eggs and find plenty of food, said Prairiescapes Tree Service and Landscaping co-owner Chris Ernster.

The last two winters have lacked multiple days or nights of minus 25 and minus 30 degree temperatures. Frigid temperatures can kill most of the EAB larvae.

EAB beetles have been spreading across South Dakota and scores of other states for several years, and have killed about 100 million ash trees.

“Forty percent of the trees, or about 80,000 trees, in the Sioux Falls area are Emerald Ash,” said Ernster. “That provides a lot of food for the borer beetles.”

According to the City of Sioux Falls, the one-half inch long, green beetles emerge from infested trees and fly to other nearby ash trees to lay their eggs on the bark. The larvae waste no time in growing and hatching into flat, white worms within a week or two. The worms go right to work, burrowing into the inner bark of the tree to feed.

The worms create tunnels which cut off the movement of food from the leaves to the roots. This weakens the trunk and limbs. During high winds, it’s common for an infested tree to lose limbs and branches.

Once the tree is infested, it can survive one to seven years but it is normal for it to die after five years.

Boundaries for tornado alley have shifted

Since the EAB program began in 2018, Sioux Falls has had a a tree removal/treatment plan in place. If the tree is in the boulevard, the city will cut down the tree at no expense to the landowner. Stump removal is not included.

EAB treatment, courtesy Prairiescapes Tree Service and Landscaping

To save the tree, it must be treated by a commercial applicator every two years until the outbreak is over. Depending on the size of the tree, the cost can range from $150-$400 per treatment and it is recommended treating it bi-annually. After the tree is treated, an EAB metal tag is placed in the tree as treatment documentation.

Being there are more larvae present this year, Ernster recommends treating the trees earlier – in June as opposed to July, to reduce the damage the EAB causes.

“There are pockets in the Sioux Falls area that are heavily infested, such as along the Big Sioux River bottom,” he said. “If you travel on the I-229 corridor and continue north of 10th Street to I-90, these areas have been hit hard by EAB. The ash trees in the 63rd & Cliff area are also very infested and damaged.”

“We have had a lot of rain this year and most of the trees look vibrant and healthy. But if an ash tree is infested, you can physically see the tips are dying and the tree is not leafing out. That is a sure sign,” said Ernster. “Another sign is as the tree tries to survive, it sends out shoots toward the bottom of the base.”

Heathy, treated Emerald Ash tree

Ernster said the city is going a good job with removing infected ash trees from city-owned areas. It’s an expensive and labor-inducing process, yet treating and saving the trees has many benefits.

Trees are good for the environment and ecosystem as they provide shade, emit oxygen for us to breathe and absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. Trees also provide homes for many species of birds and other animals. Esthetically, trees are good for homeowners property, communities and the earth as a whole.

According to the National Forest Foundation, a single tree can remove and absorb a half metric ton of CO2 over a 100-year lifetime.

Will Emerald Ash trees need to be treated indefinitely?

“We are looking at a 10-year window (of EAB treatment) right now. We will never eradicate the borer, but we project the treatments could be reduced to every three years in the near future,” Ernster said.

Written by: The Dam Rock Station

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