Local beetle invasion expected to kill hundreds of thousands of Tulsa County trees

TULSA, Okla. — Quick facts:

  • The emerald ash borer is set to migrate to Tulsa County.
  • It has been spotted in Delaware County.
  • Groups say it could kill 200,000 trees in Tulsa County alone.

Arborists and Tulsa city officials are gearing up for an invasion from overseas. No troops will be coming, but a beetle that stowed away on Chinese shipping palates and Asian firewood imports within the last decade is making its way to Oklahoma.

The emerald ash borer has been migrating around the Midwestern U.S., and the first trap to test positive for a borer in Oklahoma was found near Grove in Delaware County last month.

The bug is known to kill off ash trees and some flowering species as well, and the costs to cities, counties and residents can total into the tens of thousands of dollars.

Tulsa city councilors and some city planners have formed a committee to study how the city should fight the borer when it arrives in Tulsa County. It is estimated that more than 200,000 ash trees will be dead upon the bug’s arrival within Tulsa County alone.

FOX23 spoke with the organization Up with Trees who says some of their plantings could be killed off when the borer arrives, and they are raising money to replant any trees that would die with borer resistant maples, oak and evergreens.

Between the city and the non-profit, both are warning that once a tree is dead, it is at risk of causing property damage and bodily harm to anyone who is near one either at home or in a park.

The borer will reportedly suck the trees dry of their nutrients and they will become brittle.

It will take a beetle between three and five years to fully kill off a tree, but once it begins to feed, it does not give up until the tree is dead.

Professional arborists say they have a solution that can be applied to a tree’s roots to help it survive an attack, but the formula can be just as expensive as planting a new tree.

There is also the concern that many residents do not have adequate insurance to cover a dead ash tree falling on their homes or themselves.

Ash trees were once touted as the best trees for urban planting, and they have been used around Tulsa in parks, medians and even in residential areas.

Residents are asked to prepare now for the borer’s arrival, and the city is currently trying to come up with a plan to dispose of dead ash trees properly where a large capacity of trees can be processed.

If an ash is not disposed of properly, the borer will continue to migrate to new areas and continue to feed. Some have suggested burning a dead ash tree.


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