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Are the Ozark’s Ash Trees in Danger?

Federal and state officials say that the Emerald Ash Borer has affected multiple regions in Missouri, and are urging citizens to take precaution.
Areas in Mo Infested with Emerald Ash Borer
Areas in Mo with Emerald Ash Borer/ Image Credit: Stopthebeetle.com

Federal and state officials say that the Emerald Ash Borer has affected multiple regions in Missouri, and are urging citizens to take precaution. As KSMU’s Shannon Bowers reports, this emerald green beetle, once it infects the ash tree, can be fatal.

During a survey taken last year by the Missouri Department of Agriculture, the Ash Borer was confirmed to be found in Bollinger and Pulaski Counties. However, areas such as southeast Missouri and some areas surrounding Kansas City are under a full blown infestation, forcing residents under a wood quarantine.

Rob Lawrence is the forest entomologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation. He explains that the Emerald Ash Borer lays its eggs under the tree’s bark. After hatching, the worm-like larva tunnels inside all three varieties of ash trees, for a full year. This is why they are deadly. 

“The problem is that the tree has very little resistance to this so when you get so many of these beetles attacking over time and so many tunneling under the bark, what they do is they  interrupt the flow of water and nutrients under the bark so it essentially strangles the tree,” Lawrence says.

While ash trees only make up about 4% of the forest population in Missouri, urban areas could be at greater risk, where ash trees make up about 40% of residential areas, on average. Green County alone has over 1 and half million ash trees, according to the Missouri Forest Service.

Hank Stlzer with the MDA explains that the Emerald Ash Borer is a native beetle from eastern Asia. It was originally found in Michigan, where the infestation is still most prevalent.

“We have spread it through nursery stock. But primarily from firewood, that is how it moved from the lake states here into Missouri when it first showed up in 2008 down in the Greenville campground by lake Wapello,” Stlzer.

While wesearchers are looking for a way to slow the beetle’s life process down, unfortunately it has spread to over 21 states and is past the point of ever being able to fully eradicate them from the US.

That’s why foresters, arborists, and the Missouri Department of Agriculture are campaigning citizens in infected areas, as well as non-infected areas, to help stop the beetle by burning where you buy and not moving firewood and, through various public service announcements, such as this:

Signs of an infected tree can be misleading because once you start to notice a change the problem is probably already too far gone. One way to tell of an infected ash is an abundance of wood-peckers in the top crown of the tree, feasting on the larva. Another way is to look for D-shaped holes in the bark or the splitting of the bark.

Stlzer recommends above all this tip 

“Just like the Stock Market, diversify your portfolio. Don’t plants all ash trees or don’t plant all walnut trees or pecan trees because we don’t know what bug or disease might be down the road,” said Stlzer. 

Currently, the Missouri Department of Agriculture and the USDA are collecting over 900 traps around the state to see if any new areas have been affected. If you suspect your ash tree to be infected with the Emerald Ash Borer call Th Missouri Extension at  1-866-716-9974.

For KSMU news, I'm Shannon Bowers.

Fore more information on identifying the Emeral Ash Borer or ash trees themselves, watch the following links.