(Kansas City) (AP) – Kansas City parks officials spent the spring deliberately damaging about 700 ash trees as part of a plan to save other trees from the emerald ash borer, which kills ash trees by feeding on their bark.
The trees that have been “stressed” will be checked in the fall so the parks department can track which Kansas City neighborhoods are harboring the insect, The Kansas City Star reported. All of the 700 ash trees that were damaged are on public land and were already destined for removal.
“If there are any beetles in the area, hopefully they’ll feed on those trees,” Kansas City forester Kevin Lapointe said. “That will help us monitor how fast it’s spreading in the city.”
Kansas City has about 400,000 ash trees, while the entire metropolitan area may have more than 4 million, making it ripe ground for the emerald ash borer.
The insect has been reported in 22 states, including Missouri and Kansas, according to Johnson County, Kan., horticulture agent Dennis Patton.
Johnson County found its first adult beetle in a trap about two weeks ago and is now under quarantine, as is Wyandotte County in Kansas. Clay and Platte counties in northwest Missouri and some counties in southeast Missouri also are under quarantine.
The best the Kansas City can hope for is to slow down the insect, Lapointe said.
“It’s going to have a huge environmental and economic impact on Kansas City, even if you don’t have an ash tree in your backyard,” he said. “It’s spreading faster than anyone hoped it would.”
In April, several Kansas agencies stressed seven trees in Leavenworth, Wyandotte and Johnson counties by putting a sticky substance on the tree to catch any bug that touches it. After finding infected trees this summer, the agencies will decide whether to stress more trees in Kansas.
Residents with ash borers in their yards can choose from different treatments with varying prices, depending on the size of the tree. Patton said people still have time to consider their options.
“As of today, there’s no reason to panic,” he said. “This is a slow-moving insect. You have time to talk to your tree service. You’ve got time to make an informed, wise decision.”