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The brown marmorated stink bug is spreading in Minnesota. Here's what to do if you see it.
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A nonnative and destructive species that releases an odor when a person tries to crush it is making its way into Minnesota.

In addition to living up to its name when killed, the brown marmorated stink bug can cause significant economic damage to fruits, vegetables and crops. Largely found in the mid-Atlantic states, the states applied a significant amounts of pesticide in response to the damage. But the reliance on pesticide has gone down and experts are trying to find other ways to control it, according to Minnesota Department of Agriculture entomologist Angie Ambourn, an entomologist with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA).

Brown marmorated stink bugs were first discovered in Minnesota in 2010, and the insect continues to spread. The majority of brown marmorated stink bug sightings reported to the MDA have been in the Twin Cities and southeastern Minnesota. So far, the MDA has received one reported sighting in Steele County and 26 reported sightings in Rice County.

The MDA has been receiving reports of stink bugs in homes and has asked residents to report their findings to the MDA’s Arrest the Pest program. A chart showing the brown marmorated stink bug and look-alike insects that are native to Minnesota can be found at mda.state.mn.us/plants-insects/brown-marmorated-stink-bug.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has placed sticky clear traps baited with species specific pheromones at Minnesota apple orchards to find the brown marmorated stink bug. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Burington/MDA)

MDA is focusing on monitoring the issue at this point and the agency hasn’t reached the management phase. From the MDA standpoint, Ambourn said they probably will not do any management other than potentially working with biological control release, if necessary one day.

“It’s not an insect that is easily quarantined and so the management will be up to the specific grower,” Ambourn said.

For now, the MDA is working closely with apple orchards, helping owners get ahead of any potential problems via monitoring and trapping. Clear sticky traps are baited with species specific pheromones. MDA has been placing these traps in apple orchards and in residential areas in the Twin Cities metro where there are known large populations. From there the MDA can direct owners to the latest and best management practices if the insect is found.

Reports of stink bugs have come in from people who found the insect on their car, inside their RV and even inside their mail packages. Ambourn encourages folks to be smart consumers and recreators, keeping an eye out for those easily overlooked hitchhikers.

Even though many organizations are working to monitor and combat invasive species, Ambourn notes that one organization alone does not have the capacity to be everywhere at once, so help from the public with monitoring is beneficial.

“Citizen science has really become a big deal in finding early on invasive species, I mean not just in Minnesota, but across the country,” Ambourn said.

Residents that report their findings to the MDA’s Arrest the Pest program are asked to capture the insect and send in a photo to confirm its identification. The program accepts reports of all invasive species, and it is a resource for people who want to monitor invasive species in the state.

Findings of stink bugs can also be reported to EDDMapS, a nationwide website for invasive species through the University of Georgia. Visitors to the site can download data and view distribution maps. The Great Lakes Early Detection Network app is an invasive species early detection and warning system for the Great Lakes region and can be used to easily submit sufficient information regarding their findings from a smartphone. The Arrest the Pest distribution map is hooked up to pull information from EDDMapS every night, according to Ambourn.

“We’ve kind of been pushing EDDMapS for reporting invasive species because it’s really specific, if you’re on your phone it’ll take a GPS coordinate of exactly where you are. It asks you to take a picture, it asks you what do you think you’re reporting, and there’s a guide in there,” Ambourn said.

State identifiers receive the submission through EDDMapS, and reports are triaged before moving on to the next invasive species expert. Confirmed cases are then added to the distribution maps, allowing people to see where species are located and where they are spreading.

Arrest the Pest will soon be getting an overhaul, making the submission process easier to use. An online form will prompt people to submit more thorough information regarding their finding. It is unknown when these updates will come to fruition, according to the MDA.

Minnesota residents can report findings of the brown marmorated stink bug to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Arrest the Pest program. MDA staff say citizen reporting of invasive species in important to get ahead of the emerging issue. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Burington/MDA)

Owatonna senior overcomes language barrier, bullying to graduate
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Sara Sangare moved from Africa to the United States as a child, a transition that created a major challenge that was exacerbated by the fact she did not know any English.

On Sunday, Sangare will join the Owatonna High School Class of 2021 as they walk across the stage to pursue their next endeavors.

Sangare moved to Colorado with her family from the west African country the Ivory Coast when she was 8 years old. She was placed in an English learners program in Colorado from third to fifth grade, focusing on learning the new language, while also learning the curriculum. Six months in, she became familiar with the language, although her English was nowhere near perfect, she noted.

“That was challenging because all I could speak was French and then going to school where nobody else did was pretty challenging, but I made it,” Sangare said.

On top of the struggles of learning a new language and culture in Colorado, she was often bullied for being different, for being born elsewhere and for not knowing English. The bullying continued through middle school, but subsided a little as she became more social. She poured her energy into middle school sports and extracurriculars at her Colorado school.

“The only problem was I wasn’t focused on my education. I was more worried about having people like me, so my grades weren’t really good,” Sangare said, adding that it wasn’t until the eighth grade that she started focusing more on academics.

Eventually she would transition to an online school to get a break from the bullying and completed her first two years of high school online with Destinations Career Academy of Colorado. Homeschooling went well, she made friends and became president of Health Occupations for Students of America, a student organization designed for students interested in pursuing a career in the health field.

Just a few years later she would make another major move to Owatonna during the 2018-2019 school year. It was difficult to say goodbye to the friends she had made, and start over in a new state. She was also nervous about attending a traditional school once again.

Once in Owatonna, Sangare decided to volunteer at an area nursing home over the summer before her junior year of high school. Volunteering offered her an opportunity to get out into the community and meet people, rather than just staying at home all day.

“I’ve always been interested in working in the medical field,” Sangare said of her motivation to volunteer at a nursing home. “I wanted to do something that would help the community.”

To surround herself with more kids her age, Sangare decided to attend Owatonna High School for the last two years of her high school career. This time she was highly motivated to focus on working hard, getting good grades and setting herself up for a future career as a pediatrician.

From a young age, Sangare knew she wanted to go into the medical profession as her passion lies with helping others. Beyond her core classes, Sangare has taken courses with an emphasis in the medical field, including a Certified Nursing Assistant course.

Not only did she become serious about her grades, but she participated in a number of extracurriculars including Students Helping Others Choose, Link Crew, Student Council, Big Brother Big Sister and National Honor Society.

Sanagre said having a strong sense of her life goals is what kept her going despite the challenges laid out during her time in school. Having supportive family and friends, teachers and counselors at Owatonna High School has allowed her to keep a positive mindset through the bad days.

“I’ve learned to never give up in life. We have our challenges, but we have to learn to overcome them,” she said.

She has also learned how to ask for help when she needs it and encourages younger students to do the same. Surround yourself with supportive people, she said, and don’t let anyone bring you down or change what you have planned for your life.

Sangare will be attending college in Iowa and majoring in biology following a pre-med path.

BUILDING OUR FUTURE: First dirt turned for a new downtown Owatonna

As a couple hundred of people gathered Thursday evening at the greenspace on North Cedar Avenue, Federated Insurance Chairman Jeff Fetters described it as a “historic day” for Owatonna.

After hearing from city officials and developers behind the major projects coming to downtown, groups from the Owatonna City Council, the project drivers, the local chamber, and the business community tossed the first ceremonious shovels of dirt on Owatonna’s future development. The groundbreaking ceremony kicked off the beginning of the downtown hotel and Pearl Street apartment complex projects, as well as marked the beginning of the city’s streetscape project.

While the moment was celebrated with comments from major community leaders, the group of downtown business owners best embodied how these projects will reshape the community as they tossed up both dirt and laughter during the ceremony. Lisa Cochran, the co-chair of Owatonna Business Partnership, said that the evening was a true testament of the camaraderie among the local business owners.

“We truly are all in this together,” Cochran said, adding that the overwhelming attitude of all three of the upcoming projects is nothing but positivity and excitement. “You can approach any obstacle so much better with a positive attitude and by working together to have everyone succeed. This is going to revitalize our downtown and we are ready for it.”

Cochran, who is the corporate sales manager at Hat Chic Clothing Co. on the 100 block of North Cedar Avenue, said now more than ever businesses are having to lean on one another as they prepare for months of heavy construction to take place outside their storefronts. Preparation for the construction began months ago, Cochran said, and OBP is ready to promote bringing people downtown.

“We knew this was going to happen, so we started brainstorming on how we would handle it,” Cochran said. With help from the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism and Tri M Graphics, the “Building Our Future” tagline and logos have started to spread through the community to help get everyone excited about the upcoming changes. In addition, parking maps have been printed and laminated to post at downtown businesses to help customers know more about their parking options during construction.

“We even have the areas color coded for times so people can see exactly where there is hourly parking or extended parking,” Cochran said, noting that the concerns with parking during and following the streetscape construction has been one of the only points of contention for business owners and customers alike. Once the streetscape project is completed, the three blocks will lose 17 parking stalls with nearly half of them being from the 300 block.

“This map will help our customers, but also our staff so we can encourage them to seek the long-term parking and leave the short term open for customers,” Cochran said. “We are looking to have them posted in some areas along the streets, too, so I think this will really help with that whole parking situation.”

Cochran said OBP, whose mission statement is to “promote fun events and experiences in Owatonna and involve as many people as possible,” will also make a push to revamp the “support Owatonna” campaign that ran last year. The campaign encourages people to purchase a canvas bag or T-shirt with the slogan “love local, shop local, eat local, support Owatonna” and receive discounts or specials are participating businesses. There will also be ongoing member spotlights on the OBP Facebook page, highlighting different businesses both downtown and throughout the city to keep the buzz going about supporting local businesses.

Above all, Cochran said the biggest component OBP is implementing during the upcoming construction season is for business owners to rely on one another. One example is Matt and Deb Gillard offering their business, RE/MAX Venture Owatonna, as a walk-through point when the 100 block is torn up this fall. While many businesses do not have a back entrance, Cochran said the Gillards felt they could provide this option to allow people to park in the back parking lot and have easy access to their favorite downtown businesses.

“That is the epitome of being there for one another,” Cochran said. “That is how we are able to keep our really positive attitude for these really exciting changes.”

The groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday evening also marked the first Downtown Thursday event for 2021. Vendors lined the three blocks of North Cedar Avenue down to Central Park where live music was provided by Rachel Schroeder and the Mark Cameron Band. The next Downtown Thursday is scheduled for July 1, beginning at 5 p.m.