Emerald ash borer makes appearance in Johnson County; Wichita not threatened immediately

The emerald ash borer has advanced to Johnson County, but Wichita area residents shouldn’t worry about their ash trees yet, extension agent Bob Neier said.

“They’re slow fliers. They’ll only fly a couple miles,” Neier said of the pest that has killed millions of ash trees in the East and parts of the South. Before its presence was confirmed in Johnson County on July 11, it had been detected in Kansas in adjoining Wyandotte County.

Insecticides can be applied to valuable ash trees to try to prevent borer damage, but the Department of Agriculture doesn’t recommend treatment unless ash trees are within five miles of where the borer has been found, Neier said. In Johnson County, the emerald ash borer was found in the area of I-435 and Holiday Drive, that county’s extension agent, Dennis Patton, said in K-State’s Horticulture 2013 newsletter.

The main way the borer travels is via firewood, Neier said. “Burn it where you buy it” is the motto nationwide for firewood to slow the spread of pests such as the borer and thousand cankers disease, which can hitchhike on walnut, especially from Colorado.

Quarantines on ash wood are put in place in areas where the ash borer has been found. “Commercial companies are not shipping it in from where it’s been banned,” Neier said.

After a wind storm earlier this month, Wichita is awash in wood for burning, Neier said, even though much of it is soft wood.

Fortunately, the Wichita area does not have high numbers of native ash trees in the landscape. And no one should be planting them, Neier said. The lesson that comes from any widespread pest or disease is to plant a diversity of trees so that high numbers of one kind are not wiped out at once.

Contributing: Associated Press