The tree-killing emerald ash borer has been found in two more southern Missouri counties, prompting the Missouri Department of Agriculture to place quarantines on the movement of ash wood products in those counties.
State agriculture officials said Friday that U.S. Department of Agriculture surveyors found the beetles in Bollinger and Pulaski counties earlier this month.
Experts say much of the spread of the insect is believed to be through human transportation of firewood, logs and tree debris. The quarantine prohibits ash tree products — such as logs, lumber, compost, nursery stock and hardwood firewood — from moving out of those counties.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has quarantined four entire states — West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois — along with the lower peninsula of Michigan and infected areas of Missouri and nine other states where the ash borer has been confirmed.
The emerald ash borer is native to China and eastern Asia. The half-inch-long, emerald green-colored beetle was first detected in the U.S. in 2002. Once the ash borer takes hold in an ash tree, the tree is doomed.
The insect was first discovered in Missouri in July 2008 in Wayne County. In addition to Bollinger and Pulaski counties, it has also been found in Reynolds and Madison counties in southeast Missouri and Platte County near Kansas City. Quarantines are also in place for those counties.
The ash borer is such a threat that the National Park Service plans to cut down more than 900 large ash trees on the grounds of the Gateway Arch and replace them with another breed of trees. Park Service officials say it's only a matter of time before the ash borer makes it north to St. Louis and kills the ash trees. All are expected to be removed by 2015, the year marking the 50th anniversary of the Arch.