KANSAS CITY, KAN. — Enjoying the cooler temperatures with a warm, toasty fire? The Kansas Forest Service is asking residents to help save trees by buying their firewood locally, all to prevent the further spread of an invasive beetle killing millions of ash trees.
"The emerald ash borer is a small, green, metallic beetle that was first detected in the United States in 2002 in Detroit," said Ryan Armbrust, a forest health specialist with the Kansas Forest Service. "It has now been confirmed in 22 states, including Kansas, Colorado and Missouri."
The invasive beetle is attacking ash trees in the Kansas City area, specifically in Wyandotte, Johnson and Leavenworth counties.
Ash trees are often found in neighborhoods, making up 10 percent to 20 percent of the trees lining streets in urban cities. Armbrust estimates that the Kansas City area could lose 3 million to 6 million untreated ash trees in the next decade, taking away sources of shade, stormwater retention and aesthetic value.
The beetle invades a tree by landing on the bark and laying an egg. That larva will hatch and penetrate into the tree, feeding on the thin layer between the bark and the heartwood. The larva feed on the tree's vascular system, eventually killing the tree.
"Trees that have been invaded by the emerald ash borer have a thin canopy," Armbrust said. "As that tree loses leaf material, it will try to regain some of it by sending out new shoots lower on the tree. This is a tree response to stress. The differentiation between drought stress and stress from the emerald ash borer is woodpecker damage, because the beetle larva is a food source for the woodpecker."
Unfortunately, once these symptoms appear, the beetle has already been in the tree for a few years and has most likely spread to other trees.
Armbrust says they believe the beetle first arrived in the United States through packing material. Now it is spreading through the transportation of firewood and lumber.
"The adult beetles are poor flyers and only travel about a mile on an annual basis," Armbrust said. "Where we really see rapid movement is through human-assisted movement, like cutting down logs for firewood and taking them 50 miles or 200 miles away. If you're going camping, using a wood stove or just a backyard fire pit, try to get your wood from as close to where you're going to burn it as possible."
Armbrust says not to treat your trees unless you are within 15 miles of a confirmed population, otherwise the treatment will be too early to be effective.
If you suspect you have an infected tree located outside of the already confirmed locations, contact the Kansas Forest Service, Kansas Department of Agriculture or K-State Research and Extension.