Asian beetle found in southwestern Arkansas
HOPE, Ark. (AP) — An Asian beetle that is blamed for killing millions of ash trees since it was found in the United States just more than a decade ago has been found in southwestern Arkansas.
The emerald ash borer has been found in Hot Spring, Clark and Nevada counties, according to the Arkansas Plant Board and the state Agriculture Department.
“I think the emerald ash borer’s impact will be huge,” said Tamara Walkingstick, associate director of the Arkansas Forest Resources Center.
The discovery could lead to Arkansas being added to a federal quarantine that prohibits movement of firewood and nursery stock in an effort to slow the spread of the insect.
The half-inch long beetle has now spread from southeastern Michigan, where it was first seen in the U.S. in 2002, to southwestern Arkansas. While its discovery in Arkansas was not unexpected, it was surprising that it was found so far south so soon, according to Jon Barry, extension forester with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
“The emerald ash borer should be able to spread only a few miles a year by flight, but it has been spreading by leaps and bounds instead,” Barry said. “The most likely culprit in the spread of the borer is us — people. People move firewood, sometimes firewood that is infested with the emerald ash borer, and in the process move the pest.”
Officials said firewood should be bought and burned locally to help control the spread of the borer.
In the more than one dozen states where the borer was previously found, ash trees are being cut down and removed in an effort to prevent the insect’s spread.
“Shade tree loss and cost of removal in urban forests could tally in the millions of dollars,” Walkingstick said.
There’s another cost too.
“You like baseball? Wood bats are made from ash. They do have commercial value,” said Barry.
The adult beetles eat ash foliage and cause little damage, however the larvae feed on the inner bark of ash trees, disrupting the tree’s ability to transport water and nutrients, according to a website operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Michigan State University, Purdue University and Ohio State University.
The website says the insect likely arrived in the United States on solid wood packing material carried in cargo ships or airplanes originating in its native Asia.