Larry Lyons: Ash borer, West Nile, Lyme updatePublished 9:02am Wednesday, September 9, 2009
I know, some pretentious circles insist we use the term Native American rather than Indian but I noticed they proudly call themselves Indians so whatever’s good with them is fine by me. The annual festival is a traditional celebration marking the end of the huckleberry harvest season. It’s mostly about dancing in full regalia, which was impressive, but I was engrossed in some folks making black ash woven baskets.
They had a log from an ash tree cut the day before and it was truly amazing to see how they removed thin, pliable strips from the log using only an axe, made them even thinner by shaving with a knife and then turned them into ornate baskets. Black ash baskets go back to time immemorial in Potawatomi culture.
In fact, wife happens to have one handed down from her great aunt’s grandmother. The folks at the festival who examined it said it was well over one hundred years old but they didn’t seem overly impressed at its age. It dawned on me that the relentless onslaught of emerald ash borers is destined to send ash trees into the land of the towering elms and immense chestnuts – no more forever. Those folks at the festival may be the last generation able to carry on the timeless tradition of black ash basket making. Anyway, this rambling is what reminded me I was overdue for my annual plague updates.
Since its discovery near Detroit in 2002 the emerald ash borer has made an impressive expansion. In just months it had invaded all of Southeast Michigan. Despite extensive quarantine efforts, in just seven years it has now spread to nearly all of the Lower Peninsula counties, including all of them here in Southwestern Michigan, and has crossed the bridge into the Upper. Of course, bugs don’t concern themselves with state boundaries. They are well into northern Indiana, Ohio and southern Ontario.
Defying quarantines restricting the movement of wood, folks continue to give the ash borers a big boost. Surely from human transportation, emerald ash borers now have a foothold in Illinois, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Missouri. I fear the cat is out of the bag, so to speak. With all professional baseball bats being made of ash do you suppose the bat makers might be in a tizzy?
Another big concern in these parts is the mosquito borne West Nile Virus. For the most part it has been an unusually wet year here in the upper Midwest and it’s been an intense mosquito season. Despite this, cases of West Nile have been noticeably lacking. There have been no reported cases here in Michigan. Indiana and Ohio have only had one case each and none in Illinois. It looks like we may get through this year relatively unscathed. Of course, that’s little comfort if you were one of the two unlucky ones.
Lyme disease is another bug borne nemesis. For a long time here in Michigan it confined itself to just Menominee and Ontanagan Counties in the western Upper Peninsula.
However, prime deer tick habitat is oak and maple forests which are prevalent throughout much of western Michigan and authorities have predicted deer tick infestation here. That has proven out and deer ticks (also called blacklegged ticks), the prime transmitter of Lyme disease, have been found in most Southwestern Michigan counties and all the counties bordering Lake Michigan on to the north. They are also crawling south into Northwestern Indiana. Some of these ticks are carrying the Lyme disease virus. Cases of Lyme disease throughout the deer tick’s range continue to surface.
As an aside, it was originally believed only deer ticks transmitted Lyme disease. More recently the Lyme disease virus has been found in other tick species as well. What hasn’t been proven one way or another is whether or not the other species can transmit it to humans. Any volunteers for that study?
Larry Lyons writes a weekly outdoor column for Leader Publications. He can be reached at email@example.com