The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has confirmed a long-anticipated pest in Steele County. The dreaded emerald ash borer has been officially confirmed as being present in Steele County.

A tree care professional contacted the MDA last week after they noticed several ash trees dying at a site in Medford. Department of Ag staff found emerald ash borer. They collected a sample which was then confirmed as emerald ash borer by the United States Department of Agriculture.

The Emerald ash borer is a beetle whose larvae (immature stage) kill ash trees by tunneling under the bark and feeding on the part of the tree that moves nutrients throughout the trunk. You may have heard of this pest and its ability to kill an ash tree quickly, leaving behind S-shaped galleries under the bark as well as D-shaped exit holes. Steele County is highly susceptible to ash borer damage because we have lots of ash trees around. In fact, Minnesota as a whole has the most ash trees of any state in the nation, sitting at approximately 1 billion.

Because this is the first time emerald ash borer has been positively identified in Steele County, the MDA will be enacting an emergency quarantine to limit the movement of firewood and ash material out of the county. This will reduce the risk of further spreading the tree-killing insect.

This makes Steele County one of 20 Minnesota counties now under a full or partial quarantine to prevent the spread of this highly destructive tree pest.

Residents of Steele County are invited to an open house on Tuesday, Oct. 1, regarding the discovery of emerald ash borer in the county. Those attending the open house will have an opportunity to learn more about emerald ash borer and learn about local options to deal with the insect. Experts will be available to answer questions. The public will also have an opportunity to provide input on the proposal to add Steele County to the state formal quarantine at this open house. The session will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 1 in the Board Room of the Steele County Administration Building in Owatonna.

In addition to taking comments at the open house, the MDA will take comments on the proposed formal quarantine through Oct. 25, and proposes to adopt the quarantine on Nov. 1. The quarantine limits the movement of ash trees and limbs, and hardwood firewood out of the county. The proposed quarantine language can be found at

Comments can be made at the open house or by contacting:

Kimberly Thielen Cremers

Minnesota Department of Agriculture

625 Robert St. North

St. Paul, MN 55155

Fax: 651-201-6108

Please also contact me with any questions about emerald ash borer at 507-444-7691 or

Claire LaCanne is the agricultural extension educator for Rice and Steele counties.

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