Emerald ash borer confirmed in SD

The first confirmed emerald ash borer infestation in South Dakota has been discovered in northern Sioux Falls, bringing the tree-killing beetle to within 70 miles of Mitchell.

The first confirmed emerald ash borer infestation in South Dakota has been discovered in northern Sioux Falls, bringing the tree-killing beetle to within 70 miles of Mitchell.

Ash trees make up almost a third of the trees planted in South Dakota communities and also are also common in windbreaks.

"We do have quite a few ash trees in town," Mitchell Parks Supervisor Steve Roth said Wednesday.

Insecticide to treat ash trees can be expensive, he said, and the city lacks a formal plan for dealing with tree deaths.

Private landowners would be responsible for removing trees on their property, Roth noted. The city traditionally handles damage to trees on the boulevards.


Authorities have warned for years the invasive insect responsible for killing tens of millions of ash trees in 32 states would spread here.

State Secretary of Agriculture Mike Jaspers implemented an immediate quarantine Wednesday to slow the beetle's spread. The quarantine restricts the movement of all ash materials in Minnehaha County, as well as parts of Lincoln and Turner counties, unless authorized by the South Dakota Department of Agriculture.

The prohibition includes the transport of ash nursery stock, ash logs, lumber, wood chips or mulch, including trimmed tree branches, and pallets made of ash. The movement of firewood from any hardwood species, whether intended for commercial or private use, was also restricted within the quarantine area.

People with ash trees in good condition inside the quarantine area were told to consider treating them now. Treatment information, as well as other information, can be found at

The emerald ash borer was first detected in southeastern Michigan in 2002, after it was accidentally introduced from China into the Detroit area during the 1990s. The larval stage of the insect feeds in the food-conducting tissue of the trunk, starving the tree.

Until now, the closest ash borer infestations were near St. Paul, Minn., and Omaha, Neb.

The small beetle is likely to kill all ash trees in the community, although it likely will take many years to spread across the state. Once the beetle is found in a community, infestation spreads rapidly, killing all trees in the town within a few years. All species of ash are attacked by this insect. The only tree showing tolerance to attack is the Manchurian ash, a tree native to the region of Asia where the beetle is found.

Infested trees show these symptoms. Look for ash trees that have some dieback or are standing dead. Oftentimes, the bark is shredding due to the tremendous number of woodpeckers feeding on the larvae beneath it. Pulling bark from the tree should reveal S-shaped tunnels about 1/8-inch wide on the surface of the wood.


Ash were introduced widely throughout the country a generation ago after elm trees were killed by an outbreak of Dutch elm disease.

Effective treatments for the emerald ash borer exist but they should be considered as a means of prolonging the life of the tree rather than saving it. Despite treatment, the beetle population can increase if there is a high population of beetles in an area.

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