OWENSBORO, Ky. (AP) — State officials have begun putting traps into trees to track the movement of tiny sap-sucking beetles that have killed millions of ash trees.
Although there hasn't been any evidence that the emerald ash borer has a presence in Owensboro, officials were recently putting traps up in the city.
Joe Collins, senior nursery inspector in the state entomologist office at the University of Kentucky, told the Messenger-Inquirer (http://bit.ly/11zwaTt) recently that officials have set up those traps to see if the bug has migrated any since last year.
"So far, we've only found ash borers in the eastern half of the state," Collins said. "West Point (in Hardin County) is as far west as we've found them. But we want to make sure they haven't gotten into the western counties."
The traps look something like three-foot tall purple boxes. They are put up in ash trees and are sometimes mistaken for bat houses or art projects.
The bugs were first reported in eastern Kentucky in 2009, but have spread since then.
Traps were being installed in areas all over town including Ben Hawes Park, Kentucky Wesleyan College, Daviess County Public Library and the Daviess County Extension Office.
"We'll take the traps down in August and screen them," Collins said. "We should have the results by the end of September and know if they've spread."
He said traps are being placed all the way to the Mississippi River.
Although ash trees are found across much of North America, Collins said they aren't very common in Kentucky.
"There are fewer ash trees in Kentucky than in northern areas," he said. "Estimates are that 4 percent of trees in Kentucky's forests are ash. But in cities, it's up to 15 percent because they were planted as street trees because they are hardy."
The website emeraldashborer.info says adult borers "nibble on ash foliage but cause little damage. The larvae feed on the inner bark of ash trees, disrupting the tree's ability to transport water and nutrients."
"They'll kill the tree in four to six years," Collins said. "They start at the top and work their way down, feeding just under the bark. They cut off the flow of water to the top of the tree and kill it."
He said one of the main ways they travel is in firewood that's transported from one area to another.
Information from: Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer, http://www.messenger-inquirer.com