Archive for Sunday, July 29, 2012

Destructive insect threatens Kansas ash trees

July 29, 2012, 11:20 p.m. Updated July 31, 2012, 5:42 p.m.


An adult sample of the emerald ash borer, left, is displayed next to an emerald ash borer larva. The larvae of the insect is known for killing ash trees by tunneling and feeding under the bark.

An adult sample of the emerald ash borer, left, is displayed next to an emerald ash borer larva. The larvae of the insect is known for killing ash trees by tunneling and feeding under the bark.

There’s a deadly bug on its way into northeast Kansas. And when — experts say it’s a matter of when, not if — it gets here, more than 10 percent of our trees could die.

The emerald ash borer is an invasive beetle species that’s originally from Asia. It was first spotted killing ash trees in Michigan in 2002 and has spread rapidly. Invasion was confirmed in southern Missouri in 2008, and the Missouri Department of Agriculture confirmed on Wednesday, through just one infection of one tree, that emerald borers have made their way into Platte County, just about four miles from the border with Kansas.

Mary Geiger, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Agriculture, said that her office has been tracking borers for years and working to prevent their spread with traps on ash trees throughout the state. There have as yet been no sightings here, and crews are working to contain the infestation through ash tree culling in Kansas City.

Rose bushes also under attack

Ash trees make up a lot of the local wooded areas, but some of the county’s prettiest flowers are under threat, too. Rose bushes, especially Knock Out roses, get a viruslike infection called rose-rosette disease. Jennifer Smith, Douglas County extension agent, said rose-rosette disease is especially bad this year because all plants are stressed under our drought conditions and more susceptible.

Dennis Patton, Johnson County extension agent, said that rose-rosette is even more prevalent there, especially in beds around commercial areas. The disease makes bushes grow oddly, resulting in hundreds of thorns on one stem, red instead of green foliage and deformed flowers.

Rose-rosette disease is often spread through pruning and once a plant gets it, the plant must be removed. But the soil can soon take new plants, Patton said. Gardeners can prevent the disease’s spread by disinfecting pruning equipment between working on different plants, like you would wash things touched by someone who has the cold or a flu.

There are many kinds of borers present and native to Kansas, said Jennifer Smith, Douglas County’s horticulture extension agent. But emerald ash borers breed and feed so quickly that they almost always prove fatal to the infected tree, usually in as little as one season. Larvae hatched on bark bore into the cambium layer of the tree — in between the bark and the wood, where the tree stores its food and water — eat through essential nutrients and leave telltale tiny holes shaped like capital letter Ds. Just one emerald ash borer — smaller than a penny — can kill a tree.

Smith said that taking down ash trees around an infected one can put a damper on spread because adult emerald ash borers aren’t strong fliers, so it’s hard for them to make it a long distance to another tree, the only place their life cycle can continue. Still, the species has spread to 15 states — Missouri is the farthest west — and killed at least 20 million trees. It’s thought that the species came in originally through shipping on the Great Lakes and that individual bugs get moved around via people transporting firewood.

Michael Pitts, owner and operator of Lawrence Tree Service, is always on the lookout for the shiny green bugs. He says he’s shocked that they’ve made it so close to home so soon. Northeast Kansas doesn’t have nearly as dense of an ash population as the upper Midwest, but a significant portion of our trees are ash and therefore susceptible.

Emerald ash borers here would be good for Pitts’ business because there would be a lot of dead wood that would need removal. But he isn’t looking forward to what unfortunately looks to be inevitable.

“I’d still rather have the trees,” he said.

Fight the bug

The Kansas Department of Agriculture asks campers to refrain from transporting firewood. Using only locally grown firewood — and burning all that you take or buy — is a good way to help prevent the spread of emerald ash borers, officials at the department say. If you think you’ve spotted an infestation in one or more of your ash trees, call the department in Topeka at 785-862-2180 or the national emerald ash borer hotline at 866-322-4512.


labmonkey 5 years, 9 months ago

Is there a way from keeping your trees from being attacked? Most of my neighborhood is shaded by ash trees, and I have two huge ones in my yard.

gphawk89 5 years, 9 months ago

It doesn't have that much to do with the KS/MO border, but Agnostick's right. Don't move firewood over a significant distance. If you need some for a campfire or whatever, purchase it locally after you get to the campsite and don't bring leftovers home.

The arborist we use said the best way to treat is a system that injects the proper pesticide directly into the tree. The timing is critical, though. Too early, the pesticide dissipates before the bugs get to your area. Too late, the bugs take hold before the pesticide become effective.

You can also pour a lot of Imidacloprid (Bayer) around the base of the tree (again, way ahead of time) and let the tree's root system pull the pesticide into the tree.

Either of the above methods are expensive. The injection's more expensive but more effective. But worth it if you have nice Ash trees you want to keep.

For the anti-pesticide folks, your trees are SOL.

JackMcKee 5 years, 9 months ago

Is that 10 percent of all trees or 10 percent of Ash trees? That makes a small difference.

labmonkey,there are treatments you can use to protect your Ash trees.

alex_garrison 5 years, 9 months ago

That's roughly how many of the trees in our area that are ash trees. An ash tree that gets an emerald ash borer infestation is almost always going to die (so you could say it's just about 100 percent fatal for the population of trees that's susceptible to the infestation).

JackMcKee 5 years, 9 months ago

So basically, if the Ash Borer gets to Lawrence we can kiss our Ash trees goodbye.

Are there any recommendations on when we should start treating our Ash trees?

5 years, 9 months ago

The link has good information, but please note the disclaimer with the treatment options: "Some of the listed products failed to protect ash trees when they were applied at labeled rates. Inclusion of a product in this table does not imply that it is endorsed by the authors or has been consistently effective for EAB control. See text for details regarding effectiveness."

tolawdjk 5 years, 9 months ago

When I was living in Illinois I recall the steps they would take there.

The management there was to go in and sacrifice a few trees in the healthy forest...the bugs seemed to be attracted to stressed and dying trees. Then when one of the sacrificed trees showed bugs, they would cut every ash within, and I can't remember the exact distance, but it seemed extremely large, like 1/4 mile or something.

The idea being you put a "firebreak" up and contain the area. It seemed to work well with some of the other "borer" bugs that targetted elms in that area of the country. Of course if they have made it to Missouri, who knows if that approach in effective.

I would guess though that if they are found in your area, all the ash trees will be sacrificed to attempt to contain the spread.

5 years, 9 months ago

The D-shaped holes that indicate Emerald Ash Borer's presence are actually about the size of a pencil tip, or the ball of a straight pin. Hard to see if you aren't looking for them.

MarcoPogo 5 years, 9 months ago

Then when all your trees die, you have to dig out the stump and roots, which means that you're left standing around with a bunch of ash holes.

5 years, 9 months ago

Look for the d-shaped exit holes on the trunk of the tree to be sure. They only affect ash. If you see these, please contact the Extension office at 843-7058 asap so we can inspect and hopefully prevent further spread.

treeman 5 years, 9 months ago

The Kansas Forest Service Forest Action Plan show’s that ash trees are part of the top 10 species by volume in the state. They estimate that there are 56.1 million green and white ash trees in Kansas at risk, most of which are in rural areas. However, the 1.5 million ash trees that occur in Kansas towns and cities will pose a much greater cost to Kansans in removal, stump grinding and replacement should emerald ash borer enter the state.

Kansas Forest Service and Kansas Department of Agriculture ask residents and travelers to help prevent the spread of EAB by doing the following:

Don’t move firewood. Do not pack firewood and bring it on your camping trip. Use local vendors for firewood needs and do not bring unused wood home with you. Also, do not buy firewood from door-to-door salesman or vendors from infested states. Ask where they got their ash wood from.

Look for signs of EAB in your ash trees and if you suspect your ash tree could be infested, visit or for more information on signs and symptoms. Contact your local K-State Extension Agent, KFS at 785.532.3300, or KDA at 785.862.2180.

tolawdjk 5 years, 9 months ago

Found this to be helpful for identification and frustrating that so many others look simiar to the EAB.

Joe Hyde 5 years, 9 months ago

Ash trees have been one of the best tree species to plant in an urban or suburban environment. This tree is fast growing, resistant to air pollution, nice shade in summer, shows beautiful red wine-colored leaves in the fall.

I hope ash trees in all their cultural varieties don't become Dutch Elm-type victims, like happened six decades ago when majestic elm trees were common in every Kansas town and city.

Frederic Gutknecht IV 5 years, 9 months ago

There are lots of ash trees in Brook Creek Park. Is anyone monitoring them and planning for the infestation? How about its (Dutch Elm) diseased elms? Is anyone monitoring the "wild" roses there, which are exhibiting signs of the "rose rosette" disease, turning red, with deformed growth in the red portions? Why is nobody killing off the nasty Ailantus trees in those woods? I'll do it. Give me permission.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.