- Associated Press - Monday, May 25, 2015

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A green beetle blamed for the destruction of tens of millions of ash trees in 25 states is advancing in the St. Louis area, having turned up in the suburbs and now the city itself.

The emerald ash borer discovered last year in trees at a St. Charles County industrial park was found earlier this month in a St. Louis city neighborhood near Interstate 70, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (https://bit.ly/1FDWXmM ) reported.

“There was no preventing it. There was no way they weren’t coming,” said Susan Trautman, executive director of the regional Great Rivers Greenway trails district. “It was just a matter of time.”

The beetle slowly has marched south from Michigan and Canada, where it was discovered in 2002. Its larvae burrow into bark.

The spread of the beetle has prompted some drastic measures, including the National Park Service’s cutting down of all 800 ash trees in recent months on the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial’s grounds, home of the Gateway Arch.

“Now it needs to get on homeowners’ radars and really on community radars,” said Hank Stelzer, a University of Missouri agriculture professor who heads the forestry department. “It’s pretty hard to find them critters. Usually they just find dying trees, and beetle trails.”

Tom Bradley, the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial’s superintendent, said that while “we’re sort of vindicated” for clearing out that property’s ash trees, the thousands of such trees along St. Louis’ streets and in the backyards have become the issue.

In the Kansas City area, Stelzer said, residents are “seeing an explosion of dead and dying ash trees.” The trees there make up about 10 percent of the forest canopy.

“It can be pretty dramatic in some places,” he said. “Communities that hadn’t prepared, it’s starting to pinch them.”

He urged homeowners to start identifying ash trees now; other species are not affected. Important trees such as those shading houses or those planted as memorials can be treated with expensive, laborious pesticides. But other ash trees should be chopped down, giving property owners an opportunity to diversify their landscapes.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, https://www.stltoday.com

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