By Alicia McGarry and Mark Vasto
An invasive beetle that has ravaged ash trees throughout the United States has been spotted in the Parkville area, and that sighting has prompted a federal response, sources say.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity because of an alleged warning from government officials threatening legal action for leaking such information to The Luminary, sources said inspectors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service division (USDA) may be beginning the process of quarantining and burning several forested areas of land in the Parkville area.
The emerald ash borer (EAB) is native to northern China, Japan, the Koreas and eastern Russia. The first documented infestation in America occurred in 2002 in Detroit, but scientists speculate it arrived several years earlier. After all but wiping out the ash tree population in that state, the bothersome bug has cut a huge swath of destruction and is blamed for the death of more than 50,000 trees.
According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, the first case in Missouri — the state farthest south and west of any other known infestations — was discovered in eastern Missouri in late July 2008, and the wood-borne pest has been voraciously munching through the state’s ash tree population ever since.
Currently, southeast Missouri’s Wayne County is under a federally mandated quarantine under the Plant Protection Act, and ash tree commerce or any movement of ash wood stock is prohibited.
The EAB causes destruction when its larva bores into an ash tree, feeds off the tree’s nutritional layer and emerges as an adult via a D-shaped hole in the tree’s bark. Trees that bear the signature D-shaped hole have been lethally damaged.
The Forest Service has theorized its introduction into the state to have been by way of firewood, as has been the case for many others, where stern recommendations — and catchy slogans — have warned residents not to move firewood and to burn only firewood that’s been collected locally.
In fact, many of the places where EAB infestations have been confirmed are on parks and campgrounds, where campers would have carried with them firewood for a picnic or camping trip.
And because ash trees comprise 14 percent of all street trees in Missouri and nearly a quarter of trees found in the state’s parks, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation, the effects on the area would be downright devastating, not only from an environmental perspective, but economic and aesthetic ones, as well.
In states like Ohio, damages from the EAB’s destructive appetite for ash trees has cost upwards of $4.2 billion, and it appears the infestation is far from being controlled. In urban areas like Minneapolis, standing dead ash trees have led to falling branches, leading to insurance claims and downed power lines.
While preventive measures using pesticides can protect ash trees from infestation, once an area has been infected, there’s nothing that can be done but work to prevent further spreading by way of quarantine.
Officials say, however, not to become too obsessed with spotting an EAB as there are several other look alike insects that are native to this region and benevolent.