ALTA, Iowa | The emerald ash borer has invaded Buena Vista County, marking the first confirmed case of the invasive pest in Northwest Iowa.
Greg Johnson, director of the county's conservation board, said the insect, which attacks and kills ash trees, was found in a single tree in Alta -- a city of 2,000 about six miles northwest of Storm Lake.
The previous closest case to Northwest Iowa was in Harrison County, just north of Omaha-Council Bluffs.
In addition to Buena Vista, four other Iowa counties -- Benton, Floyd, Howard and Warren -- also recently confirmed their first cases, bringing the total to 50 Iowa counties infected.
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“This is traditionally the time of year we experience an increase in calls from Iowans suspecting EAB infested trees,” said Mike Kintner, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship EAB and gypsy moth coordinator.
Insect samples were submitted from these sites and positively identified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he said. The adult beetle is metallic green in color and measures about one-half inch long and can be observed during the summer months.
Infected trees usually lose leaves at the top of the canopy and the die-off spreads downward. The trees usually die within four years. The insects have killed tens of millions of ash trees and have been confirmed in 30 states. They are native to Asia and were first reported in the U.S. in Michigan in 2002. The insects were first detected in Iowa in 2010.
A federal quarantine restricts movement of hardwood firewood and ash articles out of Iowa into nonquarantined areas of other states.
Johnson said Buena Vista County has been removing ash trees on any county-owned land preemptively.
The Associated Press and the Journal's Des Moines Bureau contributed to this report.