ELKHART — The Elkhart Environmental Center has a message for tiny green beetles that have been killing ash trees for the past decade: Bug off.
The center will offer a new community program this summer to combat emerald ash borers, voracious pests that have wreaked havoc on trees throughout the region. Neighbors Against Bad Bugs will help raise awareness by organizing groups to tie notes to at-risk ash trees in Elkhart County with information about the insects and their environmental impact. Purdue University Extension educator Jeff Burbrink estimates that ash trees account for 17 to 20 percent of the trees in the county.
Emerald ash borers made their way from Detroit to Elkhart County slightly more than 10 years ago, according to Burbrink. These stealthy critters, which are smaller than a penny, lay eggs on ash trees. When the eggs hatch, tiny larvae burrow just below the surface of the bark where they drain the tree of its nutrients and water supply.
Ericka Popovich, environmental education coordinator, will lead a program on the emerald ash borer problem and Neighbors Against Bad Bugs at 6 p.m. June 5 at the Elkhart Environmental Center, 1717 E. Lusher Ave. in Elkhart. She was part of a team along with Burbrink and Elkhart City Forester Dan Coy that tagged ash trees in Island Park near downtown Elkhart on Arbor Day with information on the beetles.
The time to act is now, Burbrink warned. Homeowners should buy insecticides to treat ash trees or make plans to remove the trees, he explained. He said dying trees can pose a threat because they can attract more insects or even collapse once the wood becomes too weak. He noted that homeowners can treat small trees themselves, but he recommends working with a professional arborist for larger trees.
For more information on Neighbors Against Bad Bugs call the environmental center at 293-5070.