KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A destructive insect that kills ash trees has expanded its range into the Kansas City area, experts say. But they warn that homeowners shouldn’t be in a rush to remove their trees until they have to.
The emerald ash borer is a metallic green insect a half inch long and one-eighth inch wide that is native to Asia. But according to scientists, it’s the insect’s tiny larva that does the most damage to trees as they chew through the tree bark to the nutrient-rich layers beneath the bark. The larva create s-shaped tunnels that will eventually kill the tree.
Over the course of several generations of infestation, the tree will eventually die.
Officials with the Missouri Department of Conservation say that there are steps that can be taken to protect ash trees from the pest, but warn homeowners and property managers about unnecessary and costly tree trimming or removal services, or of ineffective pesticides.
“Don’t be too hasty,” said Wendy Sangster, an urban forester in Kansas City for the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), in a statement. “Learn about the emerald ash borer and when it is appropriate to remove a tree and when it is not.”
According to the MDC, emerald ash borers were first identified in North America in Michigan in 2002. Since then, the borers have killed millions of ash trees in 16 states and two Canadian provinces. The adult borers can fly short distances, but experts say that their spread is believed due to people moving firewood from infested areas.
In 2008, emerald ash borers were confirmed in Wayne County in southeast Missouri. Last week, MDA announced that emerald ash borers were confirmed in Platte County in the Kansas City metro area near Parkville, Weatherby Lake and Kansas City, North.
Experts say that emerald ash borer infestations in the Kansas City area could potentially kill many street trees and shade trees in the metro area.
The borers are 100 percent fatal to all native ash trees regardless of age or size, but experts say that these pests are not harmful to humans or pets. They will not harm wood structures, and they do not kill any other tree species.
Click here for more information about emerald ash borers from the University of Missouri Extension.