Tiny beetle causing major problems at the Louisville Zoo

Tiny beetle causing major problems at the Louisville Zoo
The problem is the larvae which feed on the inner bark of the tree, destroying the tree's vascular system affecting its ability to get water and nutrients. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
The problem is the larvae which feed on the inner bark of the tree, destroying the tree's vascular system affecting its ability to get water and nutrients. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Will Nay (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Will Nay (Source: WAVE 3 News)

. - LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - When you go to the Louisville Zoo, the main attraction is of course the animals. You don't typically think about the plants and trees, but there is a big problem buzzing around. It's called the Emerald Ash Borer. The tiny green beetle is about a half an inch long and eighth of an inch wide and it's killing Ash Trees in the Louisville area.

The Louisville Zoo is also a botanical garden. Louisville Zoo horticulture supervisor Will Nay says the beetle, which is native to Asia, has targeted many of the Zoo's trees.

"They believe they came in packaging materials, crate, and pallets," said Nay.

The beetle was first discovered in Michigan in 2002. Four years ago, the unwanted guest made its way to Kentucky.

"We're actually treating about 42 trees in the Zoo," said Nay. "Eighteen to nineteen we've already had to remove. You start cutting down a whole lot of trees you start feeling bad."

So, how does something so small do so much damage? The insects themselves actually feed on the foliage, but the problem is the larvae which feed on the inner bark of the tree, destroying the tree's vascular system affecting its ability to get water and nutrients.

"Essentially when they get up there and disrupt that, it kills the tree," said Nay.

Instead of removing the tree, The Louisville Zoo is fighting back with an insecticide called TREE-age.

"You actually drill a hole and put needles into the tree and pressurize the container and the tree uptakes it into the bark," said Nay.

The treatment isn't cheap. It will cost more than $32,000 over the next six years, but that's still a better option than removal.

The trees at the Zoo give you a spot to cool off and they simulate the animals native environment. Infestation in Louisville is expected to last six or seven years.

Warning signs that your tree has been targeted by the Emerald Ash Borer:

  • Sparse canopy and branches.
  • "D" shape hole in the bark. These holes are exit holes for the beetles.
  • Vertical splits in the bark exposing "galleries," tunnels beneath the bark that are S-shaped.
  • Increased woodpecker activity.

If you notice these signs, call an arborist. A dead tree can be dangerous, especially in a wind or ice storm.

Copyright 2014 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.