Four emerald ash borer-sniffing dogs are being put to work around Minnesota to find infested wood in firewood piles, yard waste sites and commercial vehicles.
This is the first time anyone in the nation has partnered to test the ability of a dog to detect the invasive emerald ash borer.
Emerald ash borer is one of the most destructive tree pests in the United States. Its larvae kill ash trees by tunneling into the wood and feeding on the tree's nutrients. The biggest risk of spreading the invasive ash borer comes from people unknowingly moving firewood or other ash products infested with larvae.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has partnered with Working Dogs for Conservation to train dogs in sniffing out emerald ash borer-infested wood and ash tree material. The goal is to use the dogs to help crews find infested wood and other materials that may be harboring the destructive tree pest.
"We launched this idea as a pilot program," said MDA plant protection director Geir Friisoe. "We were hopeful, but did not know if the dogs could pick up on ash tree and EAB scents. The fact that the dogs can detect not only infested wood but specifically ash wood has exceeded our expectations."
The four detection dogs began learning the scents of EAB infested wood in Minnesota last April, and are finishing their third and final phase of training. The dogs have already been trained to recognize ash tree and ash borer scents in isolated containers, and target scents while camouflaged with other scents in a controlled setting.
An interactive map of confirmed emerald ash borer infestations in Minnesota is available at www.mda.state.mn.us/eab