July 26, 2012

Insect Threat to Missouri's Ash Trees Expanding, Survey Underway

New populations found in Platte and Reynolds Counties

One of the top threats to Missouri's hundreds of thousands of ash trees has extended its reach beyond the existing quarantine area. The Emerald Ash Borer has killed more than 50 million U.S. ash trees in the last 10 years and researchers have now found signs of the invasive insect near Kansas City as well as signs of an expanding population in southern Missouri.

A single Emerald Ash Borer was identified in the Kansas City area last week by an alert aborist, near Parkville. Staff from the Missouri departments of Agriculture and Conservation and the USDA immediately joined that individual at the site. Emerald Ash Borers were also identified in Reynolds County last week through routine surveillance, adjacent to the known population in Wayne County. The Wayne County population was first identified in 2008.

The Missouri departments of Agriculture and Conservation work with federal staff from USDA Plant Protection and Quarantine and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as well as researchers at the University of Missouri to monitor Missouri's forests and urban areas for signs of the insect, as well as to inspect incoming shipments of nursery stock which may harbor the borers.

Representatives from those organizations, as well as other members of Missouri's Invasive Forest Pest Council, will be collaborating on possible changes to Missouri's Emerald Ash Borer Quarantine as a result of finding the insect in two new locations within the state this month. The group has already begun work on a survey to determine the extent of infestation in Platte and Reynolds counties. Those surveys will be ongoing throughout the summer and fall in a cooperative effort by local, state and federal agencies.

Wayne County is currently under federal and state quarantines, which prohibit moving hardwood firewood and living or cut ash trees and ash wood to prevent the accidental spread of the borer.

Although the Emerald Ash Borer can fly short distances on its own, much of its spread is due to humans transporting it burrowed under the bark of firewood, logs and tree debris. Consumers are encouraged to use other native tree species, rather than Ash trees, in their landscape plantings and to purchase firewood harvested near their destination when traveling and camping. Individuals can also check their trees for signs of the Emerald Ash Borer using the online guide available at eab.missouri.edu and report concerns about their trees by calling (866) 716-9974.

Researchers have not been able to determine exactly how or when the Emerald Ash Borer came into Missouri, but it's believed the insect hitch-hiked into the state in a load of firewood carried by a vacationer from another area, as signs of the insects were first found at a campground in Wayne County near Wappapello Lake. The Emerald Ash Borer was first discovered in the U.S. in 2002, in Michigan. It has since spread to more than 15 states, including Missouri and Illinois, and Canada.

For more information about the Emerald Ash Borer, as well as the Missouri Department of Agriculture's other programs, visit mda.mo.gov.