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Mechanicsville Considers Chopping Ash Borer Trees, DNR Expects Spread

MECHANICSVILLE, Iowa Officials in Mechanicsville said Wednesday they'll discuss how to handle their invasive beetle problem next week.

They're the latest town to be infested by the emerald ash borer, a type of beetle native to Asia. It takes over ash trees, killing them in as little as two years' time. It's already been found in Allamakee, Des Moines, Jefferson, and now Cedar County.

For about the last four years, Fran Robinson has noticed the ash tree in front of her Mechanicsville house has been acting funny.

"The top was beginning to not leaf out," said Robinson "We thought it was dying, which it is."

State officials confirmed last Thursday it's the ash borer. The little beetle's larva have taken up residence under the bark and are tunneling through the tree's water and nutrient flow, killing it slowly.

"You can see that they work from the top down, the larva does," said Robinson.

Mechanicsville officials know of three infested ash trees on West 1st Street, but said a few others are showing signs too. They'll discuss what to do about the infestation at their next city council meeting.

"More than likely at the council meeting Monday night, they'll probably determine to hire a contractor to come in and remove them," said City Clerk, Linda Coppess.

State entomologists call the emerald ash borer one of the most destructive tree pests ever seen in North America. It was first spotted in Michigan in 2002 and has since spread to 18 other states and Canada.

The Iowa DNR said the bug's appearance in Mechanicsville means it will most likely spread to other parts of Iowa in coming years.

"Right now we don't know of any way to stop it completely. So, we're just advocating slow it as much as you can," said Joe Wilkinson, a spokesperson with the Iowa DNR.

Wilkinson said the ash borer only moves about five miles by itself each year. He said it can hide in firewood, and recommended people not take it across state and county lines. State officials are considering making that mandatory through a regional quarantine of parts of Eastern Iowa. It would restrict the movement of firewood, logs, and wood chips in quarantined counties.

Wilkinson also recommended people replace old and dying ash trees with a variety of other species to create a blockade of plant types the bug won't eat.

"If we can buy more time, maybe there's a cure or something that will stop it 10 or 20 years down the road," said Wilkinson.

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