SHERIDAN — The Wyoming State Forestry Division is moving down from the Bighorn Mountains into urban communities to monitor trees for non-native invasive pests.
The non-native invaders being tested by the WSFD, Wyoming Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture and other state and federal partners include gypsy moth and emerald ash borer.
From May through September, WSFD will hang large plastic green funnel traps and attach small paper green triangular delta traps to trees across the state to detect these pests.
Mountain pine beetle and spruce beetle are two of the most destructive insect pests in Wyoming’s forests, according to the state forestry webpage on forest health management. Since the early 1990s, these native beetles have caused tree mortality over millions of acres on federal, state and private forests in Wyoming.
The non-native invasive emerald ash borer infested Colorado in 2013 and Nebraska in 2016. According to the EAB information network, adult EAB beetles nibble on ash foliage but cause little damage. The larvae, however, feed on the inner bark of ash trees, disrupting the trees’ ability to transport water and nutrients.
As of May 2018, the EAB is found in 33 states and three Canadian provinces.
In an effort to prevent the beetle from infesting Wyoming trees, the state established a response plan if the beetle is located within its borders and urges the public not to move firewood.
District forester Kelly Norris said the invasive species enters the state through human transport.
In an effort to ensure the invasive species have not yet hit the state, the forestry division put up traps and will monitor them throughout the summer.
“We hope to find nothing at the time of collection in September,” Norris said. “The state of Wyoming has an EAB response plan if and when we do locate the invasive pest, but we hope not to find either EAB or gypsy moth in a trap this year or ever.”
Norris said the traps are large and noticeable.
Five traps will be set in Sheridan, along with three in Gillette and three in Buffalo.
The traps in Sheridan will be located in Kendrick Park, South Park, the Sheridan County Fairgrounds, KOA campground and Sheridan College.
EAB target green, white and black ash trees that typically grow in urban environments. Gypsy moths typically target deciduous trees. From past state forestry inventories, it is estimated that Sheridan’s tree canopy consists 10 percent of ash trees.
“That means the community could lose 10 percent of their overstory with (an) EAB (infestation),” Norris said.
Sheridan County is also home to native ash trees in the drainages to the east and north of Sheridan, which also could be threatened by the EAB.
Foresters urge those recreating in and throughout the community this summer to not touch the traps, as they are carefully set and could cause problems. Results will be published after evaluation of the traps in the fall.