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Creve Coeur ponders next move on emerald ash borer problem

See that favorite ash tree on your block? Take a picture of it, because it will soon be gone.

A hungry bug that made its way from China to Detroit about two decades ago depends on ash trees for its main meal. Now the emerald ash borer [EAB] is in the St. Louis area. That is bad news for ash trees, according to Mark Grueber, a Missouri Department of Conservation urban and community forester.

“Every ash tree in Missouri will be dead in a matter of years,” Grueber said.

What experts knew was inevitable now has proven to be precisely that.

Emerald Ash Borer

He made that assessment at a joint work session of the Creve Coeur City Council and the city’s Horticultural, Ecology and Beautification Committee. Members of the city staff are seeking advice about what to do with the approximately 829 ash trees in the city’s rights-of-way and the 202 ash trees in city parks.

Director of Public Works Jim Heines laid out a seven-year plan for removing about 150 ash trees each year, starting with the trees in the worst condition. The city could do that without seriously affecting other programs, Heines wrote in a memo to City Administrator Mark Perkins.

Heines and Grueber suggested that the city plant a variety of trees to replace the old ones. That way, they said, there will be a smaller chance that a future infestation will have a serious effect on the city’s trees.

About one-half inch long, the EAB is a green beetle that originally came from Southeast Asia. The bug bores into the tree and lays eggs. Those eggs turn into larvae that nosh on the tree, which eventually kills it. Typically, an ash tree dies within two years after it shows signs of being infested.

The North American EAB infestation began near Detroit and later moved to nearby states. It was first discovered in southern Missouri in 2008. It has more recently moved into the St. Louis area, and was detected just north of the Creve Coeur city limits in November 2015.

It’s time for municipalities to decide what they want to do, Grueber said, noting that with treatment, the destruction of some trees can be delayed.

“There’s going to be communities like Creve Coeur that start working and start acting,” Grueber said. Many others, he added, will delay and will face serious problems later as a result.

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