State officials to host meetings on ash borer

(On Sept. 23, 2010, Minnesota Department of Agriculture officials released stingless wasps as a biological control for emerald ash borer in rural Houston County. The release site, Blackhawk Park, is located 30 miles south of La Crosse, Wis. MPR Photo/ Nate Howard)

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the Department of Natural Resources will host three open houses to discuss the discovery of new emerald ash borer in southeastern Minnesota.

The open houses will be held in La Crescent, Dakota and Winona. Officials will offer area residents information about the ash borer and discuss the state's efforts to slow the bug's spread.

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Residents will also have an opportunity to comment on an emergency quarantine placed on ash products in Winona County.

On August 25, state agriculture officials confirmed two new ash borer infestations in the southeastern part of the state. A beetle was found in a purple monitoring trap in Veterans Park in La Crescent. Another one was found in a trap in Great River Bluffs State Park, 17 miles south of Winona.

Since the discoveries, the two departments have released stingless wasps in the state park to control the bug. The wasps are a natural predator of the emerald ash borer and prey on its larvae and eggs.

The emerald ash borer is so worrisome because of the sheer number of ash trees -- about nine million statewide. Emerald ash borer is one of America's most destructive tree pests. Its larvae kill ash trees by tunneling into the wood and feeding on the tree's nutrients.

Since its accidental introduction into North America, the emerald ash borer has killed millions of ash trees in 15 states. The bug was first discovered in Minnesota in May 2009 in St. Paul. Since that time, it has been found in Minneapolis, Falcon Heights, Shoreview, rural Houston County, and now La Crescent and rural Winona County.

The open houses will take place:

- 5:30 to 7 p.m., Wed., Sept. 28 at the La Crescent City Hall, 315 Main Street, La Crescent;

- 6:30 to 8 p.m., Thurs., Oct. 6 at 220 Golden Rule Rd., Dakota;

- 6:30 to 8 p.m., Mon., Oct. 10 at Winona City Hall, 207 Lafayette St., Winona.

For more information, visit the MDA's website or call 1-800-967-2474.