The so-called green menace, the emerald ash borer, has been in the Kansas City area since 2012. Isolated locations were found in Kansas and Missouri. In 2013, the ash borer was found in northern Johnson County.
Today pretty much every county in the metro area except Miami has emerald ash borer populations. Ash trees are exhibiting classic signs of infestation in Johnson County.
So what does this mean to you?
That depends on whether or not you have an ash tree on your property. But ash borers will effect us all.
Emerald ash borers were first found in the United States in 2002 in Michigan. Since then borers have been discovered in almost 30 states. The pest targets ash trees including the green and white ash found in the metro area.
The adult insect is a small metallic green beetle. It is a borer, which means its larval stage bores into the vascular system of the tree. The damage disrupts the movement of water and nutrients to support the tree.
All ash trees — even young healthy ones — are at risk now that the insect is here. History shows the ash borer destroys nearly every single ash tree — unless they are treated.
In many neighborhoods ash is the dominant tree species. It is also common in our native woodlands. Imagine bare neighborhoods, as though the development were just built. Or worse, picture streets lined with dead trees.
Ash borer infestation will change the local landscape. The benefits of these trees will be lost and homeowners will face big expenses.
The ash borer moves slowly into an area. It takes several years since first discovery for the insect population to build to levels high enough to see widespread ash issues.
We are at those levels where, if you know what you are looking for, you will find dying and declining ash trees.
The symptoms at first are not noticeable. Initially, the upper canopy of leaves starts to thin out, followed by branch dieback. It may take several years of infestation in a tree for a significant portion of the tree to die, but by then it is too late to treat the tree.
The good news is there are several treatment options that are highly effective in preventing ash borer infestations. Continued treatment will prolong the life of the tree. But it will not save the tree if treatments are stopped.
As you would guess, chemical treatment options, while highly effective, come at a price and not all trees are worthy of being treated.
Before any treatment is started, determine whether the tree is in good enough condition to be worthy of the expense. As they age ash trees develop defects such as rot, decay, trunk injury and poor branch angles. Many trees were planted in poor locations. Trees with any of these issues are probably not worth the lifetime investment of treatment.
Trees in excellent condition and properly situated add long-term value to the landscape and are candidates for treatment. Professional trunk injections that will stop ash borer feeding are recommended for larger, mature trees. The treatments are usually effective for two years before more treatment is necessary. It is best to start treatment before leaf thinning and branch dieback start.
If you have visited Chicago, parts of Indiana or other states east of here, you might have noticed dead trees in woodland areas and neighborhoods.
This is what is coming to Kansas City in a few short years. Extension has resources for helping with ash borer issues on www.johnson.k-state.edu or by calling 913-715-7050.