MDC finds Emerald Ash Borer in more counties across Missouri

WEST PLAINS, Mo. -- It's less than an inch long, but it's threatening to destroy an entire species of trees across the Ozarks.

The state Conservation Department says the Emerald Ash Borer is being found in more and more counties across the state, including several here in the Ozarks.

Back in 2002, the Emerald Ash Borer was first discovered infesting and killing ash trees in Detroit, Michigan.

By 2008, the beetle native to Asia, had made its way to Missouri.

"Sadly it looks like Emerald Ash Borer is here to stay," Francis Skalicky of the Missouri Dept. of Conservation told KY3.

It was spotted in Greene and Polk Counties earlier this year, now the beetle has been found in 16 more counties, including Douglas and Ozark.

"That was one county, now it's up to 75 counties. So it does seem to be spreading," Skalicky added.

According to the MDC, Ash trees only make up 3 percent of the forest trees in Missouri.

They provide good shade and grow quickly, making them popular in the cities.

"This is particularly a problem in urban areas. Urban areas tend to have more ash trees," Skalicky explained.

Conservation agents believe the bug will likely spread to every county in the state within the next few years.

Once they attack a tree, the tree almost always dies.

Experts say, people sometimes unknowingly transport Emerald Ash Borers when they cut up an ash tree, turn it into firewood and they take that firewood somewhere else.

"This is a disease, you don't know you have it until you have it. It usually is in an advanced stage, which usually means the tree has to come down," Skalicky exclaimed.

But there are ways to give your ash tree a chance to survive - just not right now.

"There are some treatment guidelines. Unfortunately the trees can't be treated until the Spring," Skalicky said.

When it comes to your own Ash trees, Skalicky suggests calling a local conservation office or a certified arborist for treatment options.

The agency encourages Missourians to report possible infestations in counties where the pest has not yet been confirmed.

Reports can be made by using the online form at eab.missouri.edu or by calling 1-866-716-9974.