Trained dogs find Ash Borer beetle

Emerald ash borers are metallic-green beetles about a half-inch long and are native to eastern Asia. They were first discovered in the United States in Michiganin 2002 and are now confirmed in at least 13 other states, including Wisconsin. Emerald ash borers first showed up in St. Paul in 2009, then in other parts of Ramsey County and Hennepin, Winona and Houston counties.

Since the beetles’ discovery in the state, officials have tried a variety of methods to detect them and stop their spread. “We weren’t even sure if dogs could pick up on the scent of the ash borer or the ash wood, but they did,” she said. “We’re excited it worked.”

The beetle larvae kill trees by tunneling under the bark, disrupting the trees’ food supply. They are known to travel to new areas via firewood, nursery stock and other woody materials.

A team of dogs have been training in Minnesotato to detect this invasive beetle. The dogs were trained much like law enforcement drug-sniffing dogs, but with the focus on finding emerald ash borers and their larvae, which threaten the nearly 1 billion ash trees in Minnesota. The dog training program was a pilot program and has proven effective, Erickson said. Four dogs were trained — two Labradors, a German shepherd and a Belgian Malinois.

“With emerald ash borer, the only way you can find it is by visually finding the signs of it on the tree or in the wood,” Erickson said. “Those signs sometimes don’t appear right away, so sometimes you don’t realize there’s a problem until it’s too late. And with the dogs, because they can smell it, they can find an infestation right away. That’s the kind of efficiency that makes it well worth bringing the dogs in.”