Tree Pest Is Sucking the Life Out of Emerald Ash Trees in Kansas

Trees are an essential part of our life. They provide oxygen, shade, and add beauty to our landscapes. A popular tree throughout the country and in Kansas City is the flowering and robust ash tree. It is considered a deciduous tree and provides a multitude of beautiful colors in the fall. Unfortunately, there is a tree pest running rampant throughout the U.S. that is sucking the life out of ash trees. This pest is known as the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB).

What is Emerald Ash Borer and What Is Its Cause

EAB is a small, invasive, yet exotic green beetle discovered in 2002 in Detroit, Michigan. It was most likely brought to Kansas through the beetle’s movement on firewood or wood packaging materials. While the adult beetles cause little damage, the young larvae feed on the tree’s critical parts, prohibiting the tree’s ability to transport water and nutrients. Most ash trees will die within two to three years after becoming infected. 

Why is This Pest Such a Problem?

EAB has already killed hundreds of trees in North America, cost municipalities, 

nurseries, property owners, and the forest industry hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s caused regulatory agencies and the USDA to enforce quarantines and fines to prevent the moving of firewood. Like the death of any species, there is a rippling effect on other living organisms. Ash trees provide shelter and a food source for many wildlife. The seeds of an ash tree are eaten by a variety of birds, including the wood duck, bobwhite, purple finch, pine grosbeak, and fox squirrels. Butterflies, moths, and various other species live on or around ash trees. 

Symptoms of Emerald Ash Borer

  • Canopy Thinning and Crown Dieback – The first symptom an infected tree will show is the thinning and dying of twigs toward the tree’s upper canopy. This is because the young larvae feed beneath the bark, causing damage to the tissues responsible for carrying water and nutrients through the tree. It’s important to note, however, that other conditions can cause thinning of the canopy. Therefore, this symptom alone does not indicate EAB. 
  • S-Shaped Galleries & Splitting Bark – Trees attacked by EAB have distinct S-shaped or tunnels beneath the bark. They are approximately 1/8 inch wide and packed with a mixture of sawdust and insect excrement. 

Epicormic Sprouting – As EAB larvae feed, trees attempt to create callus tissue around larval galleries, which cause the bark to split vertically. You can often see the S-shaped galleries and larvae beneath the split bark.  

  • D Shaped Exit Holes – Another symptom of EAB is the presence of D-shaped holes in the bark. When trees are stressed, they may try to grow new branches and leaves wherever possible. Stressed ash trees may have new growth at the base of the trunk or on the main branches.

What is Kansas Doing About EAB

In efforts to slow the spread of EAB in Kansas, the state of Kansas declared an intrastate emergency quarantine prohibiting the movement of regulated items from any quarantined area, except under specific conditions established in the Permanent Emerald Ash Borer Quarantine. It includes Atchison, Doniphan, Douglas, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Leavenworth, Miami, Shawnee, and Wyandotte counties. The quarantine applies to any corporation, company, society, association, partnership, governmental agency, and any individual or combination of individuals.

Regulated items under quarantine include the following:

  • The emerald ash borer in any living stage of development
  • Firewood of all hardwood (non-coniferous) species
  • Nursery stock of the genus Fraxinus (Ash)
  • Green lumber of the genus Fraxinus (Ash)
  • Other material living, dead, cut, or fallen, including logs, stumps, roots, branches, and composted and uncomposted chips of the genus Fraxinus (Ash)

What Can I Do?

  • Know what EAB looks like and watch any ash trees on your property closely. 
  • Act quickly to report any ash trees that are declining.
  • Only buy and burn local firewood. Be especially careful and do not move firewood. Invasive insects can sit on firewood for long periods giving plenty of time for the emerald ash borer to emerge. Hauling firewood, even a short distance, from one part of the state to another is a common way for these invasive species to infest new locations.
  • Report any affected trees on your property that is not included in one of the quarantined counties to the Kansas Department of Agriculture. Call 785-564-6698 or e-mail your name, address, phone number, and pictures of the suspected tree to KDA.PPWC@ks.gov. 
  • Contact Quality All-Care Lawn Services. Our tree and shrub care program utilizes a six-cycle treatment plan that will help increase the strength of your plants and trees. Towards the end of summer, we administer a general fungicide for the prevention and treatment of disease and an insecticide to eliminate any leftover damaging insects. All of these measures will help to ensure a healthy emerald ash tree. 

Call us today at 913-894- 9250, or contact us online to learn more about our comprehensive tree and shrub care program. Want more? Check out our other blog articles for more tips and ideas on lawn and tree care.

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