Don’t let plant, tree pests hitch a ride up North

Spring is here, which means people soon will be looking toward vacations in the North Woods or getting back to cabins or camp sites they have in the region.

Unfortunately, that movement could carry plant and tree pests to places they otherwise might never reach.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has designated April as Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month to remind travelers to do their part to prevent the spread of these destructive invaders.

Most invasive species don’t move very far on their own. Many have made it to the U. S. by hitching a ride on goods and materials from other countries, or even on the ships, planes and trains that transport them.

Once here, plant pests rely on humans to make their way from state to state.

According to USDA-APHIS, damage caused by invasive tree and plant pests, coupled with the cost of control and eradication efforts, can reach $40 billion annually, with losses affecting agriculture, forest products and even residential landscapes.

The Asian longhorned beetle, which likely arrived in wood packing materials from Asia, has caused the loss of more than 180,000 trees in Ohio, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Illinois. The beetle and its larvae can travel unnoticed in firewood, logs or branches of infested trees.

Already found in Delaware, New Jersey and Virginia, spotted lanternfly is spreading through eastern Pennsylvania. These insects suck sap from stems and leaves of more than 70 plants and crops, including grapes, apples, hops, walnuts and other hardwood trees.

“The departments of Natural Resources, Environmental Quality and Agriculture and Rural Development work together to detect, respond to and provide outreach about invasive species,” said Greg Norwood, terrestrial invasive species coordinator for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “For example, we are now working hard to contain the damage from hemlock woolly adelgid in southwest Michigan and oak wilt in several counties across the state. It is important for everyone to take steps to limit the risk of introducing new pests and diseases to Michigan.”

Both the federal government and individual states use quarantines to restrict the movement of materials that might carry plant or tree pests and diseases. A list of quarantines affecting movement of certain products into or within Michigan can be found on the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s website, Michigan.gov/MDARD.

Travelers can learn about pest and disease quarantines in states they plan to visit by checking the USDA-APHIS Pest Tracker at APHIS.USDA.gov.

These simple steps can help prevent new pests and diseases from hitching a ride with travelers, whether within or outside Michigan:

— Wash dirt and debris from outdoor gear and tires before traveling, and check cars, trailers and recreational vehicles for insects or egg masses.

— When traveling, leave firewood at home. Buy it at the destination point and burn it there.

— Check with a local USDA office before bringing home fruits, vegetables or plants from other states.

— Outside of Michigan, report any signs of invasive pests by going to Hungrypests.com.

— Within Michigan, report invasive species to the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network at MISIN.MSU.edu.

For more information on invasive species threats in Michigan, go to Michigan.gov/Invasives.

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