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Science and the Environment

Insect that Kills Ash Trees Found in Southwest Missouri

An insect fatal to ash trees has been found in Laclede County.  According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, a recent examination of several ash trees in that county turned up the emerald ash borer, an insect whose life cycle kills ash trees.  That brings to 31 the number of counties where the emerald ash borer has been found and is the first discovery of the insect in southwest Missouri.

The small, metallic green beetle is native to Asia.  The small insect was first discovered in the US in Michigan in 2002, likely as a result of it being transported to the states in packing crates and pallets made of infested wood.

It was first located in Missouri in 2008 in a public campground near Lake Wappapello.  MDC suspects infected firewood is to blame.

MDC officials say  EAB life cycle takes one year to complete. Adult beetles emerge from ash trees, leaving behind small D-shaped holes. EAB females then lay eggs on the bark of ash trees in early summer. These eggs hatch into larvae that bore into the tree’s vascular layer–-the zone that transports water and nutrients through the tree. The larvae feed on this vascular tissue, creating winding tunnels on the wood’s surface. Ash trees typically die from this feeding damage in three to four years.

According to the department, while ash trees comprise just three percent of the trees in the state’s forests, they can be as high as 40 percent in some urban areas.

It says Missourians can help slow the spread of the insect by not moving firewood long distances. A statewide emerald ash borer quarantine established in 2013 by the U.S. and Missouri Departments of Agriculture restricts the movement of ash trees, logs and hardwood firewood from Missouri into states not known to have the insect. While it is legal to move firewood within Missouri, officials recommend not moving it more than 50 miles from where it was cut to slow the spread of the emerald ash borer and other invasive forest pests.