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Colorful Insect Threatens to Decimate Missouri's Ash Tree Population--Debris Clean-up Practices Impact Infestation

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Release date: 
August 29, 2013
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Kansas City, Mo – Last spring, a series of storms caused extensive tree damage in many communities throughout Missouri.  As clean-up continues, proper debris management will impact the fate of Missouri’s Ash trees by helping to stop the spread of a small but invasive pest making its way across the state. 

A native of Asia, as of June, 2013, the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) had been found in 20 states and two Canadian Provinces. In a report published on the University of Missouri Extension website, Missouri’s EAB infestation was discovered in 2008 in a campground at Wappapello Lake in Wayne County. Since then ten counties have been placed under quarantine to prevent the accidental spread of the beetle by regulating the movement of potentially-contaminated wood products, including firewood and mulch from storm debris.

The importance of proper wood management is magnified when one considers that approximately 14 percent of trees in the State’s towns and cities are Ash, and the figure reaches as high as 30 or 40 percent in some neighborhoods and parks. The EAB is 100 percent fatal to Missouri’s native ash trees -- blue, green, and white -- of any size, age, or health, according to the University of Missouri Extension.

On its own, the beetle will only fly a few miles. However, it is easily and quickly transported to new areas when people inadvertently move Ash infected with EAB larvae. Wood waste from pruning, storm damage, or tree removal may seem like a readily available fuel source, yet State officials warn that moving firewood, whether ash from quarantined areas or otherwise, is the primary avenue for the spread of the EAB. Many of the places where it has been found are parks and campgrounds where people unknowingly carried EAB with them when they brought firewood on a picnic or camping trip.

Missouri Department of Conservation Forest Entomologist Rob Lawrence emphasizes the importance of not moving woody debris from the immediate vicinity when cutting trees and limbs that have been storm damaged or need trimming. “The debris can be allowed to decay or burned any time before spring when the adults emerge, but to reduce the possibility of spreading EAB or any other pest, the main thing is not to move it from the immediate vicinity,” he said.

The EAB larva is the source of destruction as it spends its life inside ash trees, feeding on the inner bark where it cannot be seen. According to Jodie Ellis of Purdue University, the eggs females deposit on the surface of ash bark, in its crevices and cracks, hatch in 1-2 weeks. The tiny larvae bore through the bark and into the phloem, the tissue layer that spreads nutrients throughout the tree, creating S-shaped tunnels or galleries. As the larvae feed and grow, the galleries get larger, disrupting the transport of nutrients and ultimately killing the tree.

The ten counties currently under EAB quarantine are Bolinger, Carter, Clay, Iron, Madison, Platte, Pulaski, Reynolds, Shannon and Wayne. According to the Missouri Department of Agriculture, the results of this summer’s EAB infestation survey may add more regions of the State to the quarantine area.

The quarantine regulates both the interstate movement of potentially contaminated wood products and movement between these counties and others within the State. In addition to firewood, the quarantine covers ash nursery stock and any part of an ash tree.  Firewood from any species of hardwood, including oak, maple and hickory is quarantined as well because, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), once a log has been cut and split, it is extremely difficult to differentiate between ash wood and other hardwood species.

There are opportunities for the timber, wood, and firewood industries to continue interstate commerce through the use of processing options associated with the issuance of a USDA compliance agreement, certificate, or limited permit.  Contact the USDA’s APHIS at 573-893-6833 for more information. Permitting and compliance agreements for commercial wood transport within the State of Missouri can be obtained by contacting the Missouri Department of Agriculture at 573-751-5505.

If you suspect the presence of the EAB or other invasive insect or disease, the first step to verify the identity of the pest as many little green bugs look similar. Visit for identification aids or call the Missouri Department of Conservation at 1-866-716-9974. Once confirmed, an online report form is available at

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View photos of and get more information about the EAB at


Last Updated: 
September 4, 2013 - 16:22
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