EAB prevention in Minnesota has gone to the dogs. Forestry pros in the state have unleashed a new weapon in the war on emerald ash borer: man’s best friend. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has partnered with Working Dogs for Conservation to train dogs to sniff out EAB larvae and ash tree material. Four detection dogs are currently completing an intensive training program (started in April) and are expected to be ready to begin work sometime in July. Since beginning training, the dogs can now consistently detect EAB-infested material and ash tree material in isolated containers. Phase two of the program focuses on recognizing the scents while camouflaged with other scents in controlled settings, as well as introducing the scent in natural settings. The final stage of training will focus on comprehensive searching for infested ash tree material in a natural setting. On the job, the dogs will assist regulatory crews by inspecting mulch piles, yard waste sites and commercial vehicles. Working Dogs for Conservation (www.workingdogsforconservation.org) also plans to make EAB detection dogs available for any state to hire once they have completed training.
In a first-of-its-kind program, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and Working Dogs for Conservation are partnering to train dogs to sniff out EAB larvae and ash tree material.
PHOTO COURTESY OF MINNESOTA DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE.
While the program is the first in the nation to enlist dogs for EAB detection, it’s not the first time officials have used canine assistance in invasive insect detection – the USDA also uses trained detector dogs to identify the presence of Asian longhorned beetles. Beagles are especially good at sniffing out the frass of immature ALB larvae and can even distinguish the difference between ALB frass and carpenter ant droppings, which can be very similar. Detector dogs could prove to be a very successful tool in the battle to control invasive species, and best of all, many of these super sleuths are rescued from shelters.
Coming up …
Despite the dogs’ (and humans’) best efforts, ALB, EAB and other invasive insects are still making their way into America’s forests. Next month we’ll touch base with horticulturist John Fech for an update on some of the most problematic pests and diseases. Also, see page 14 of this issue for more information on borers of hardwoods.