Ento-musings from the University of Kentucky Department of Entomology

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Grayson County Students Fight Invasive Species

by Blake Newton, UK Extension Entomologist

In the post below, Julie Peterson mentioned that a story about invasive species showed up on the Yahoo! home page. I'm glad that this topic is getting more press.

On Tuesday, Jan 19, I got a chance to meet a group of middle-schoolers in Grayson County who are doing their part to slow the spread of invasive species. Grayson County is about two hours west of Lexington, KY. As many people in our region know, the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is a very serious invasive pest that was found in central Kentucky in 2009. We knew it was coming: it has been moving in our direction, via Ohio and Michigan, for the past few years. It is a devastating beetle that has killed tens of millions of ash trees.

So far, the pest has not been found in Grayson County. But it is likely to be there soon, probably within the next two years, so the students in Grayson County Middle School decided to take action. Their first step was to learn about the insect. They spent the last several months researching the creature by reading about it and by consulting with us (the Entomology Dept, that is) and with their local Kentucky Division of Forestry representatives. Then they ordered boxes of EAB pamphlets and distributed them. Their culminating event was a public seminar that occurred on this most recent Tuesday evening. I think that the kids were disappointed by the attendance (welcome to extension!), but I thought that it wasn't too bad for a Tuesday evening: there were about 25 people there, and many of them were homeowners and they were very concerned about their ash trees. The speakers for the evening were representatives from UK Entomology, the KY Division of Forestry, and the kids themselves. The take-home message that the audience received was a simple one: the bug is coming, and here are the steps that you can take to minimize the impact.

By the way, if you are concerned about EAB, here is what you can do:
1. Learn about the bug:
2. Spread the info to your friends and family.
3. Identify the trees on your property. Do you have any ash trees? How to identify ash trees: http://www.mda.state.mn.us/news/publications/ext/ashtreeid.pdf
4. If you have ash trees, look for signs and symptoms of ash borer infestation. The best time to do this is during the summer.
Signs and symptoms: http://www.emeraldashborer.info/files/e-2938.pdf
5. Report suspected infestations to the USDA APHIS Emerald Ash Borer Hotline: (866) 322-4512, or to the Office of the State Entomologist: (859) 257-5838

-don't move firewood from one county or state to another. The bug can travel in firewood! Purchase only local firewood and burn it where you buy it.
-don't plant new ash trees
-get the latest info about EAB in Kentucky, including a continually updated list of infested counties:

If you have a treasured ash tree that you want to save from ash borer infestation, it is possible to do so, although it can be expensive. If you are interested in doing this, one of your best options is to consult a certified arborist. They can examine your tree(s) and determine the best course of action. To find an arborist:


  1. Just so you know, the students will have many more participants once the pest is found in that area! We had the same response as they did when we tried to get the word out before EAB was found in different counties. Sounds like they did a great job, and thanks for spreading the word!
    Robin Usborne
    Communications Manager
    Michigan State University

  2. Yes, we keep experiencing the same thing--we have a hard time getting the word out until the pest actually shows up in an area. Thanks for the kind words!