Emerald Ash Borer found in Kearney as insect spreads west of Nebraska

Nebraska News

FILE- In this undated file photo provided by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, an adult emerald ash borer is shown. Millions of tiny wasps as small as a grain of rice have been released into wooded areas in 23 states as the battle against the emerald ash borer turns biological. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has researched and approved for release in the U.S. four species of parasitic wasps that naturally target the larval and egg stages of the ash borer. (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources via AP, File)

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP/KCAU) – The Nebraska Department of Agriculture announced on Monday that the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) was found in Kearney.

Officials said a severely declining street tree that’s located near Pioneer Park was determined to be infested with the insect. It was first spotted by the city parks and recreation staff.

The finding marks the first time that the destructive insect has been confirmed in the state outside of eastern Nebraska.

This detection adds Buffalo County to the growing list of counties in Nebraska with known EAB infestations.

“Emerald ash borer is considered to be one of the most destructive insect pest of trees ever to occur in the U.S.,” said Laurie Stepanek, Forest Health Specialist with the Nebraska Forest Service. “Its impact on urban trees, native forests, and windbreaks in Nebraska will surpass that of Dutch elm disease.”

The Nebraska Forest Service (NFS) said it’s projected that the state’s taxpayers and homeowners will ultimately spend over $961 million on ash tree removal, disposal, and replacement due to this pest.

EAB is named for the bright metallic green color of the adult beetles. It’s in the immature stage, however, that causes the most damages in trees.

“The immature stage, or larva, tunnels into the trunk and branches, cutting off the flow of water, nutrients, and sugars under the bark,” said Stepanek. “At the height of an EAB infestation, trees can die in just a few years.”

Residents in Kearney and surrounding communities with ash trees on their property should begin making plans to either treat or remove the trees.

Photo Courtesy of Nebraska Forest Service

The optimal time for treatment is spring, although professional trunk injections may provide some control, even if done in the summer.

“Treatments must be done for the remainder of the tree’s lifespan, therefore, take time to assess the value and health of your trees to determine if they are good candidates for treatment,” Stepanek said. “Trees worth treating are those that provide much-needed shade, are key components of the landscape, or have intrinsic value. The trees should also be in very good condition with robust canopies, no large dead or dying branches, and no mower damage or other serious trunk wounds.”

Officials said because insecticide treatments have drawbacks, trees should be located within the “treatment consideration zone,” which is within 15 miles of Kearney.

This recommendation strikes a balance between the need to protect valuable trees and the drawbacks of unnecessary insecticide applications.

Kearney’s 15-mile zone includes Amherst, Axtel, Elm Creek, Gibbon, Minden, Odessa, and Riverdale.

The trees that are left untreated will eventually die from EAB and will need to be removed.
Graham Herbst, Community Forestry Specialist at NFS, recommends pre-emptive removal of living ash trees, when possible.

“Trees that have died from EAB are extremely brittle and pose a hazard—dropping limbs on people, buildings, and cars,” said Herbst. “There may also be a high demand for tree removals when large numbers of ash begin dying—increasing prices and the chance that homeowners will be approached by “fly-by-night” tree companies that may not have proper insurance, licensing, or training to remove hazardous trees.”

As the trees are removed, they should be replaced with a diverse selection of trees and not just a few species.

NFS said the variety of tree types will help avoid another significant loss of the urban tree canopy when the next serious pest arrives.

The insect was found in Omaha in 2016 but the Buffalo County confirmation is the first time its spread has been confirmed so far west.

The invasive beetle was first discovered in Michigan in 2002 and now has been found in 35 states.

For more information about the Emerald Ash Borer and recommended trees for replacement, click here.

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