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Emerald ash borer hits Minnesota-Wisconsin border

A small, tree-killing insect from China has jumped across the state of Wisconsin in a single bound.

Wisconsin officials announced Tuesday that the emerald ash borer had been discovered in Victory, a small Miss-issippi River town 20 miles south of La Crosse.

"Our agency, in concert with other state and federal partners, is now working out the details of surveying the area and learning more about the age and extent of the infestation," Rod Nilsestuen, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, said in a statement.

It's the first confirmed outbreak of the insect outside the greater Milwaukee area and the first anywhere near Minnesota. The insects were confirmed in Ozaukee and Washington counties last year.

State officials last month announced the Ozaukee County infestation was too big to stop.

Officials in Minnesota and Iowa were quickly notified of the outbreak and will tour the infestation later this week. Mark Abrahamson, entomologist for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, said the bug's march north is inevitable but that state officials are working to slow that spread to give foresters and pest experts time to find more options.

"We've got people on the ground in southeastern Minnesota right now to see if this infestation has spread into our state,'' Abrahamson said. "It's only about a mile away.''

While the adult beetle can fly short distances, it's believed that most emerald ash borer movement is caused by people transporting infested firewood. All firewood and nursery trees in the Victory area will be immediately quarantined.

Emerald ash borers first were discovered in the Detroit area in 2002 after arriving in the U.S. in shipping crates from China. In just seven years, the bugs have spread and killed about 80 million ash trees in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Illinois, West Virginia, Virginia, Missouri, Quebec and Ontario. No species of ash has been able to withstand the bugs.

Minnesota and Wisconsin officials have asked all residents and tourists not to move any firewood more than a few miles from where it was cut.

Last year, Minnesota set 350 borer-attracting traps across the state but found none of the insects. The state will increase that to more than 1,000 this year, in strategic areas such as near campgrounds, Abrahamson said.