Becoming a First Detector

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Become an Illinois First Detector!

Gain knowledge of invasive insects, plants, and viruses by attending this valuable workshop sponsored by University of Illinois Extension. "Becoming a 'First Detector' in 2014 through the University of Illinois Plant Clinic gave me the skills to properly identify emerald ash borer, thousand canker diseases on walnut trees, and the invasive plant called Oriental bittersweet," states Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup. Gardeners, Naturalists, Foresters and Educators benefit from this all-day workshop designed to increase awareness and teach identification of invasive species (plants, pathogens or insects) that threaten our landscape.

Consider attending this upcoming workshop hosted at the University of Illinois Extension office, now located at 1615 Commerce Parkway in Bloomington. The workshop is February 26 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. This workshop includes in-depth instruction, hands-on activities and a buffet lunch. Please register at or call (309) 663-8306 and talk to Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup. A $40 non-refundable registration fee covers instruction, on-site lunch, and training materials. Space is limited; so register today! If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in this program, please contact us at (309) 663-8306.

Emerald ash borer has killed, or prompted homeowners to remove ash trees for the last several years in McLean County. In the class, we saw samples of afflicted trees, the insect's life stages in vials and even had to identify an ash tree next to look-alikes. The impacts of this pest are well-known to many residents of Bloomington-Normal. However, southern and western Illinois counties have not yet detected this devastating invasive insect nor has Woodford County.

Thousand canker disease is a fungus on walnut trees spread by walnut twig beetles. The fungus causes patches that look like a mosaic pattern under the bark. When the beetle feeds on the tree, fungus is spread, blocking the tree's ability to transport water and nutrients. The first signs are wilting and yellowing branches, then dieback followed by fast death. The best way to prevent the spread of this disease is to stop the transportation of firewood. Thousand canker disease has not been detected in Illinois but is as close as Ohio and Tennessee.

Oriental bittersweet can be commonly confused with American bittersweet. American bittersweet has fruit only on the tips of the branches, while on Oriental bittersweet fruits are throughout the vine. Also, American has fruit capsules that are all orange and Oriental has capsules that are yellow on the outside. Because oriental bittersweet is so prolific, chemical sprays are deemed more effective than hand pulling in eliminating them. Hand pulling disturbs the seed bank and leaves pieces of the roots behind.

The 2015 workshops will cover new topics on current and emerging invasive plants, pathogens, and insects. The workshops will include sessions covering viruses in ornamental plants, invasive plants and their management, the Brown Marmorated Stink bug, as well as a session devoted to discussing invasive pest pathways. As in previous years, these in-depth training sessions will include: identification and detection; life cycle and biology; hosts; sampling; management; and commonly confused look-a-likes.