- Associated Press - Friday, July 11, 2014

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - An infestation of small green beetles has started taking a toll on ash trees in Kentucky.

From Lexington to Louisville and north to Cincinnati, ash trees are being wiped out from rural landscapes, parks, subdivisions and urban corridors, according to The Courier-Journal (https://cjky.it/1nl0vRG).

The culprit is the emerald ash borer.

The Asian invader arrived in Kentucky a few years ago from the north where the beetles killed more than 25 million trees.

Now, dead tree tops and whole dead trees are visible from the westbound lanes of Interstate 64, and in pockets of destruction throughout northern Kentucky, including Franklin, Shelby, Oldham and Jefferson counties.

“For some areas of the state, we are beginning a peak decline,” said Jody Thompson, ecologist and forest health specialist with the Kentucky Division of Forestry. “We really are at a point where we are crossing a threshold, where ash trees in these infested areas are starting to reach their peak decline, where it is going to be most noticeable.”

Experts like Thompson and Chris Chandler - a certified arborist and habitat restoration manager with a private consulting company - are worried about property damage and injuries from falling limbs or trees.

“People are going to get hurt,” said Chandler, who can count dozens of dead and dying trees in his Oldham County neighborhood. “We need education and outreach.”

The small shiny green beetles likely arrived in the United States hidden in wooden packing materials from Asia. They were first identified in 2002 in Michigan. They were found in Southern Indiana’s Floyd County in 2008. The next year, experts identified them in Jefferson County.

By 2012, the borer had begun to wreak havoc on Jefferson County’s sizable ash population, and local tree advocates were calling on the city to mount a vigorous fight, with mixed results.

Estimates are that Jefferson County alone has 2.5 million ash trees, making up 10 percent to 17 percent of the county’s tree canopy

Metro Parks developed and is carrying out an ash borer management plan in city parks and along the tree-lined Olmsted parkways. Parks crews are treating about 150 of some 1,800 ash trees they surveyed, including some of the parks’ best examples of ash trees, said Mesude Duyar Ozyurekoglu, Louisville Metro Parks landscape manager.

But she said parks expect to cut down as many as a few dozen dead or dying ash trees this year that threaten people or property - and more next year.

“I see so many ash trees declining,” she said. “Not only in the parks, I see it everywhere.”

In all, an estimated 31 Kentucky counties are now infested, state officials said.

University of Kentucky experts have been experimenting with biological control methods to curb emerald ash borer, such as introducing parasitic wasps.

“I’m quite optimistic,” said Lynne Rieske-Kinney, professor of forest entomology at UK.

But she acknowledged “the insects kill the trees so rapidly that it’s difficult to develop management approaches.”


Information from: The Courier-Journal, https://www.courier-journal.com

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