Without the work of effective border agents, invasive species would harm our most precious natural resources
FENNVILLE — Bad news for fruit growers, though not unexpected: Michigan State University scientists issue an alert to be on the lookout after a single Spotted Wing Drosophila has been trapped in some ripe black raspberries at a farm in Allegan County.
KALAMAZOO — A widespread decline of ash trees is identified at residences, along city streets, in shopping center parking lots and at golf courses this year, courtesy of the Emerald Ash Borer, first detected in Kalamazoo County on ash trees at Loy Norrix High School and at nearby Milham Park.
BENTON HARBOR — The brown marmorated stink bug from Asia, which has wiped out orchards and fields in mid-Atlantic states since its introduction to the United States in 1998, is discovered in a field near Galien by a Lake Michigan College student studying entymology.
DETROIT — One of the world’s most destructive pests — with the potential to wreak havoc on the state’s agricultural industry — is found by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at both the Detroit and Port Huron crossings, according to The Detroit News.
“The Khapra beetle is only as big as a nickel is thick, but en masse it could destroy some of Michigan’s most important grain crops. Two of the beetles were discovered in a shipment of chickpeas from India,” the News reported.
These above items are just a few recent reports about some insect hitchhikers we can’t afford in Michigan.
Pick what you love about this state: The trees. The Great Lakes. The bountiful fruit and produce. All these natural treasures are threatened by pests that have no natural predators in Michigan. And we’ve not even mentioned Asian carp or the northern snakehead.
The prospect of these and other invaders getting loose in our lakes and fields is enough to give state agriculturists and border agents nightmares. But it’s no bad dream; the threat is very real.
Consider the fact ash borers have killed or damaged about 35 million ash trees in the Lower Peninsula since their discovery several years ago in southeastern Michigan, according to state officials.
And state officials already know what happens when the Khapra beetle gets loose: It happened in California in the 1950s. It took 13 years and $15 million to eradicate the pest, which had spread to Arizona warehouses, storage bins and mills before it was stopped.
Right now, our agriculture border agents are our last line of defense. We appreciate what they do every day to protect our state.
And we’ve been fortunate; these agents have discovered and stopped many invasive plants, along with a host of exotic and destructive insects, from entering Michigan. These agents know, for example, that the Asian longhorned beetle, which could decimate Michigan’s hardwood trees, especially maples, was discovered in southern Ohio this year. So they’re on the lookout for that bug, too.
It’s imperative that we not cut back on border inspections. If anything, we should find ways to strengthen existing safeguards.
It would be helpful if our legislators found ways to beef up the burden on the importers so they would bear the responsibility and expense of ensuring that these pests are not introduced in Michigan — and that they would bear the cost of eradicating the problem if it can be proven they introduced it.
That may be a tough case to make; but Michigan needs to be very tough on this issue.
Consumers of fruit and produce need to educate themselves, as well, and be wise about what they purchase, realizing the dangers attached to what might appear, at first blush, to be great bargains.
Cheap apples from China aren’t cheap at all if they come with pests attached that ultimately wipe out our native fruit trees.
— KALAMAZOO GAZETTE