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Hundreds of trees killed by ash borer at Aloha State Park

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The Emerald ash borer is a pest that has been attacking ash trees in southern Michigan for some time, but now it has made its way to upper portions of the state, one of them being Aloha State Park near Cheboygan.

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According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, over 400 ash trees that died have been removed from the park in the past six months. Compounding the problem is that upwards of 85 percent of the trees at Aloha State Park are ash, putting them at risk.

“The speed at which these trees have died is the most striking thing to me,” said Aloha State Park Supervisor Jeremy Spell. “Trees that looked healthy during the summer had bark falling off this winter."

According to the website Emerald Ash Borer Info, the beetle is native to parts of Asia and Russia and was first discovered in the United States in 2002 when it was found in Southeastern Michigan. It is not the beetle in its adult form that damages the trees, but its larva that hatches from eggs laid on the tree. The larval form then make their home under the bark of Ash trees in the layer that where water and other nutrients move up to feed the tree. When this layer is disrupted, the tree then dies.

Trees that have been killed by the Emerald Ash Borer lose their bark and the larva leave behind characteristic "tracks" in the wood beneath.

The threat to upper Michigan by the Emerald ash borer has been well known and efforts have been made to keep the pest in southern Michigan through the banning of transporting cut wood across the state.

"The DNR recognized years ago this could happen," Spell said recently. "The department has planted around 200 trees within the past five years thanks to grant funding received from the Odwalla Plant-A-Tree Program. We will continue to plant a diversity of trees each year but also recognize it will take a long time before the park looks like it did last year.”

With the main area damaged being in the campgrounds at the park, it was necessary to remove and continue to remove those trees that have died as they pose a safety threat.

Spell added that the work has been slowed by the large snowfall amounts that fell this winter in upper Michigan, but plans call for the park to be ready for visitors when it opens later this spring.

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