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Bug causing damage to Pewee Valley scenery

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By Alix Mattingly

 

A destructive bug is causing major damage to the towering landmarks of Pewee Valley.

The emerald ash borer is native to Russia, northern China, Japan and Korea. It first made an appearance in the U.S. in 2002. While it is not certain how the borer came to the U.S., it is suspected the insect migrated in shipping materials, according to information from the USDA Department of Forestry website on the ash borer.

Now, 12 years later, the ash borer is ravaging ash trees in Pewee Valley.

“The Kentucky Department of Forestry called this area ground zero for the ash borer,” Ed Kithcart, chairman of the Pewee Valley Tree Board, said.

Kithcart said the Jefferson/Oldham county line is a hotbed of activity for the borer because of the number of ash trees in Pewee Valley. A 2003 count of ash trees in the city, county and state right of ways in Pewee Valley netted 626 ash trees valued at $505,014. With the number of trees on private property unknown, it’s hard to put final totals on the damage the ash borer could cause, Kithcart said in an email.

Kithcart, who has an extensive background in pesticide sales and marketing, said that treating ash trees for the emerald ash borer is an option, but not a practical one. The treatment has to take place yearly and does not have a guarantee of working, he said. With the life cycle of the borer dependent on the weather, knowing when to start treatment cycles is a guess at best.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we lost 1,000 trees in the city,” Kithcart said.

The loss of trees in Pewee Valley is especially important to the community because it has been a Tree City for the past 19 years, according to the foundation’s website. Tree City USA is a program run by the Arbor Day foundation that honors cities who maintain a tree board or department, have a community tree ordinance, spend at least $2 per capita on urban forestry and celebrate Arbor Day, their website states.

Each year the Pewee Valley Tree Board makes a list of trees in public right of ways that need to be removed because they are dying, dead or in the way of utilities. The number of trees affected is growing at such a rate that ash trees are moving from the bottom of that list to the top in one year, Kithcart said.

Kithcart and the USDA Department of Forestry urge landowners to monitor their ash trees for signs of the borer. A major sign of the borer’s presence is “canopy die-back.” The canopy, or leaves and upper branches, of an ash will begin to thin rapidly over one to two years. Also, holes shaped like the letter D will be visible on bark, according to the USDA Department of Forestry.

The Department of Forestry says that the borer can fly up to half a mile from the tree it emerges from, migrating to other ash trees. While this is suspected to be the borer’s main thoroughfare for spreading, moving firewood from location to location is also suspected to lend to borer migration.

Members of the Pewee Valley Tree board plan to begin restoring and diversifying the tree population in Pewee Valley through an Arbor Day tree giveaway. On April 26 the board will give away 100 assorted trees to residents of Pewee Valley. Trees can be picked up in front of city hall with proof of residency.

Through actions like the tree giveaway, Kithcart hopes to protect the area from pest devastation by increasing tree diversity.

“It’s sad to lose all these trees,” Kithcart said, “but the lesson to be learned is that you have to diversify your canopy.”

Email us about this story at amattingly@oldhamera.com.