Moving pests around inadvertently is just too easy

The unintentional movement of invasive pests such as gypsy moth and emerald ash borer was one of the major ways these insect pests were transferred around Michigan.

October 2006 Quarantine map.

October 2006 Quarantine map.

Ever buy fruit at a market or grocery store, bring it home and then discover fruit flies buzzing around your counter a few days later? Ever bring some firewood indoors and allow it to warm up for several days only to find ants or other insects emerging from the wood box? These are just two common examples of how people can easily, yet unintentionally, move insects around.

Luckily, in most of these cases, you have only awakened some uninvited native insect early from its winter nap and this critter is thinking its spring, in the case of firewood. So these crawling or flying critters pose no real threat to you or your landscape as compared to other uninvited pests such as emerald ash borer or gypsy moth.

Hopefully, you can also see from these two examples how easily it can be to accidentally transport invasive insects into our country or state. Invasive pests can easily be shipped inside of or imbedded into the wood of shipping containers themselves. After all, it’s how emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle accidentally arrived here in North America from Pacific Rim countries.

While interstate or foreign commerce is often the primary way most of these invasive species arrive into Michigan, Michiganders also contribute to the movement of these invasive pest species. For example, the introduction of emerald ash borer was traced to shipping containers and dunnage discarded in a landfill in Southeast Michigan. The problem spread out to the neighboring landscape from there.

However, what is equally concerning is that many of the quarantined emerald ash borer sites discovered early on in the emerald ash borer spread into Northern Michigan were the result of people moving infested firewood from their homes in Southern Michigan to cabins and campgrounds “up north”. In addition, other pest problems such as oak wilt disease can also be spread around via firewood transmission.

Consequently, this lead to many efforts to slow the spread of emerald ash borer and other pests that was probably best exemplified by the ban on transporting firewood across the Mackinac Bridge or the ubiquitous bumper sticker featured here:

Unfortunately, there are several more troublesome invasive pests poised on the “doorstep” of Michigan, including Asian longhorned beetle, hemlock woolly adegid, and others, that could be equally as devastating as emerald ash borer. Hopefully, we can learn from past mistakes and do a better job at preventing the introduction or at least detecting their presence much, much earlier than with others.

Fortunately, that’s the goal of a newly organized effort here in this state called the Michigan Eyes on the Forest and Sentinel Tree Network. Funded by the Michigan Invasive Species Grant Program, the MSU “Eyes on the Forest: Invasive Forest Pest Risk Assessment, Communication and Outreach Project,” links research with outreach and communication projects through the MSU Department of Entomology and Michigan State University Extension.  For more information, go to the Michigan Eyes on the Forest webpage or the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network webpage

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