BOONE COUNTY - Emerald Ash Borer Beetles have continued to expand in Missouri. The invasive species was first discovered in Michigan in 2002 and has expanded into 89 counties in Missouri.
The beetle kills ash trees by laying its larva in the bark of the tree. From there, it eats the inside of the tree depleting it of nutrients.
To help control the population, MU professor Kevin Rice said wasps could be the answer.
"What we have found is that when you release these wasps, the density, or the abundance of emerald ash borer rapidly decreases," Rice said. "They're very effective at killing these beetles."
Bred by the United States Department of Agriculture, Missouri Department of Conservation forest entomologist Robbie Doerhoff said these wasps kill the larva of the beetles.
"There are these teeny tiny parasitoid wasps that the USDA is rearing out in a lab setting and then those are being shipped to Missouri and the USDA and the Missouri Department of Agriculture are releasing those tiny wasps," Doerhoff said. "They only attack Emerald Ash Borer larvae."
However, one of the most devastating ways the bugs enter a new place is through the transportation of firewood. Collin Wamsley, a state entomologist, said campers should not bring Missouri firewood out of the state.
"If you're traveling west, to some of the states where Emerald Ash Borer isn't established yet," Wamsley said. "Not bringing firewood with you from Missouri will be a huge help to not spreading this pest farther, farther west."
Another way people can control the population is through the use of insecticides.
"We have some good options for homeowners, there are tree injections, that you can actually have a private company inject your tree with systemic insecticides that basically travel up that circulatory system and gets into the leaves and where the larvae are feeding," Rice said. "That is very effective."
While the fight to save ash trees rages on, Rice said he is optimistic for the future.
"The small bit of good news is when I was a graduate student in at Ohio State University, I found a pocket in Michigan of live ash trees," Rice said. "What we think is that they these small group of they have a genetic protein maybe that either allow them to last longer before they die, or, or they might be able to survive emerald ash borer attack."
If this protein is successful, ash trees could be saved.
"There might be a happy ending that we could reintroduce ash trees," Rice said.