KEARNEY — The emerald ash borer beetle that’s infesting and killing ash trees around the nation made its first appearance in Nebraska in Douglas County in 2016.
The Nebraska Forest Service now is reporting that the appearance of the beetles in Kearney was confirmed in June.
The beetles lay eggs in the bark of ash trees. When the eggs hatch the offspring burrow to the soft tissues below the bark and eat that part of the tree. It’s fatal because the tissues carry moisture and nutrients to the rest of the tree.
Foresters with the city of Kearney Park and Recreation Department already are talking with Kearney homeowners about their responsibilities and options when ash borers infest their trees.
Photos on the Nebraska Forest Service website show a street in Ohio in which borer beetles killed all the ash trees in four years.
Whether Kearney loses its ash trees that rapidly could depend upon how many property owners purchase expensive treatments to slow the bug’s advance; however, the city of Kearney is taking a proactive approach by using the expected loss of all ash trees as an opportunity to diversify the city’s leafy canopy by encouraging property owners to plant a variety of species.
During Tuesday’s Kearney City Council meeting, Park and Recreation Director Scott Hayden will report on efforts to help property owners with the beetle invasion.
The city currently is offering grants — while the funding lasts — to assist with the cost of removing ash trees and other dying trees. According to the city’s website, the program will pay 50 percent of removal costs — up to $200. The city also is recommending tree species to plant as replacements.
The Nebraska Forest Service said planting a variety of species helps protect a community’s tree population against insects and diseases. According to the state Forest Service, “The overplanting of ash trees in the years following Dutch elm disease contributed to our state’s current situation with the emerald ash borer.”
Tuesday’s Kearney City Council meeting is open to the public and begins at 5:30 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall, 18 E. 22nd St.