Hormel Nature Center turns to a new source of help to fight emerald ash borers: wasps

(ABC 6 News) – Minnesota is home to the most ash trees in the United States which makes the Emerald Ash Borer problem even more serious to Minnesotans.

It doesn’t matter if the tree is in your backyard or in the woods. All ash trees are at risk.

On Thursday, The Hormel Nature Center in Austin will be taking a different approach to save their ash trees from the Emerald Ash Borer.

“A release of parasitoid wasps,” said Kris Hahn with The Hormel Nature Center.

Now before you start to worry about these wasps, Kris says they are no larger than an ant and do not have a stinger.

“They have these little things sticking out of their butts like ovipositors. They lay their eggs in larva and eggs of the Emerald Ash Borer,” said Hahn.

These wasps are part of a biocontrol method to prevent Emerald Ash Borers from killing ash trees.

“Natural settings like The Nature Center, we have a lot of woods. We have a lot of ash trees. Where in urban settings where you can treat a tree with chemicals, that’s not really feasible here because we have thousands of ash trees in hard-to-reach places where you wouldn’t be able to get the equipment in,” said Hahn.

Treating with chemicals is much more feasible in a residential setting. Morem Tree Service in Austin provides this service along with tree removal.

“We are going to do a bark spray. It’s safe to do on all the trees. It dries very quickly and it’s an annual treatment that we’ll come out and do every year,” said Danielle Morem.

She says that the Emerald Ash Borer problem in Mower County has only gotten worse over recent years.

It’s important that people with ash trees treat them annually. But the yearly cost can add up.

“They have to choose between treating the tree and cutting it down, knowing that the treatment is forever,” said Morem.

Now chemicals aren’t the only solution. Biocontrol is making it possible for all ash trees to be treated.

“The Emerald Ash Borer is so pervasive because it doesn’t have any natural predators here and so biocontrol the wasp that we’re bringing is a natural predator to it,” said Hahn.

The treatment here at The Nature Center will begin Thursday. The wasps pose no threat to the public and it could take up to five years for the treatment to really take effect.

If you have an ash tree on your property, Danielle says it’s better to treat it sooner rather than later, because once you notice a tree is sick, in some cases it is already too late to save.