Michigan citizens have a history of detecting invasive forest pests

Observant and curious citizens that notice and follow up when trees begin to show signs of decline are an asset to the early detection of invasive forest pests.

With the hustle and bustle of today’s society, it can be hard to take the time to notice, much less question, the little things going on around us, such as changes in the trees that we see every day. Doing so can be important to addressing a tree health issue before it becomes lethal to tree(s) in a yard, neighborhood or woodlot.

Observant Michigan citizens have played a vital role in reporting the movement or appearance of more than a few forest invasive pests. One example that most Michiganders can relate to is the emerald ash borer’s (EAB) spread throughout the state. At least two active EAB sites were confirmed because of a concerned citizen’s call to Michigan State University Extension offices.

In 2004, EAB was detected in Roscommon County, which was further north than previous detections since its discovery in Michigan in 2002. The observation was made by a Master Gardener from downstate who was visiting a relative’s cottage when she noticed signs of EAB. Because of her training, she knew to call the local MSU Extension office to report her suspicion.

She talked with Extension Forester, Russ Kidd, to report her suspicion. Mr. Kidd promptly visited the property and confirmed her suspicion and reported it to state regulatory agencies. The report resulted in the removal and monitoring of thousands of ash trees in the St. Helen area in an effort to stop the further spread of the invasive insect. 

In 2008, Mike Schira, MSU Extension Forester in Houghton County received a call about dead and dying ash trees in a cemetery in Laurium, Houghton County. Mr. Schira visited the site, which was 200 miles from the nearest known infestation, and reported the suspected EAB infestation to Michigan Tech scientists who confirmed that the trees were indeed infested with EAB. Efforts were made once again to stop the spread, which was a nearly impossible task, and the insect continued to spread.

Another insect, the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA), has been detected and eradicated in Michigan on several sites over the last 10 years, mainly along the western coast of the state, prompting Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) to issue a statewide quarantine on HWA in 2001 (updated in 2014). A detection in 2015 was made by an arborist, who suspected HWA on a hemlock tree in Ottawa County, MDARD Scientists confirmed his suspicion, and began eradication efforts in the area. Since then eight out of ten detections of HWA in the area have been made by arborists, property owners or landscapers. Efforts continue in this latest eradication effort.

These are just a few examples of informed citizens detecting invasive forest pests in Michigan. These stories highlight the important role local citizens can play in aiding scientists with tracking the presence of invasive forest pests. In fact, a recent article by Mike Schira asks citizens to be a part of a statewide effort to monitor trees for three invasive forest pests that are not yet established in our Michigan forests. The Eyes on the Forest and Sentinel Tree Monitoring Volunteer Network focuses on the Asian Longhorn Beetle, Thousand Cankers Disease of Walnut and the Hemlock Woolly adelgid. People involved in the Sentinel Tree Monitoring effort choose a tree and collect data about the tree 2-3 times a year to ensure it is healthy and free of the aforementioned and other invasive pests and diseases.  

You can be part of the effort! Visit the Sentinel Tree Volunteer Network page to learn more. Or visit the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN) web page, click on the “Citizen Science” tab and begin monitoring a tree today!

The Michigan Eyes on the Forest program is funded by the Michigan Invasive Species Grant Program and delivered in partnership by the Michigan State University Department of Entomology and Michigan State University Extension. For more information about the Michigan Eyes on the Forest Program, the target pests, and the Sentinel Tree Monitoring contact Julie Crick, MSU Extension Natural Resources Educator at 989-275-5043.

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