LINCOLN, Neb. -- Emerald ash borer is one step closer to Nebraska as state forestry experts confirm it in both Missouri and Wisconsin.



"The newly identified population in Missouri demonstrates that the insect is able to travel on infested firewood and establish itself long distances from other known populations," said Eric Berg, Nebraska Forest Service community forestry program leader. "The Missouri population also is of particular concern as it brings the insect one step closer to Nebraska and demonstrates its potential to be almost anywhere in the U.S. whenever people are transporting infested firewood into areas where ash trees are present."



Emerald ash borer is a non-native, or invasive, insect that attacks and kills all native ash species, including white, green, black and autumn purple. The beetle disrupts the tree's ability to transport water and nutrients.



EAB most commonly is spread through the transport of infested firewood. For this reason, citizens are urged to buy local firewood at their campsites and burn all their wood on site.



EAB was first detected in southeast Michigan in 2002. The insect currently is present in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Ontario, Canada, as well as Missouri and Wisconsin. Experts estimate EAB has killed more than 50 million ash trees.



In Nebraska, there are an estimated 2.2 million ash trees planted in towns and cities, and in some Nebraska communities, 20 to 30 percent of the total tree resource is ash. Additionally, there are an estimated 30 million ash trees in forests and conservation plantings. When EAB arrives in Nebraska, these trees all will be at risk.



However, state and federal agencies are preparing for EAB's arrival.



"About three years ago we started to realize that EAB would eventually be a problem in Nebraska," says Mark Harrell, Nebraska Forest Service forest health program leader. "Several of us from the Nebraska Forest Service, Nebraska Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service began talking about what we should do to get ready for it."



Harrell says those discussions led to the formation of Nebraska's EAB Working Group and eventually the Nebraska EAB Readiness Plan, which outlines what various agencies and professional groups will do before and after the insect arrives in Nebraska.



Since October 2007, state forestry agencies in Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota have been working together to prepare for the arrival of invasive species, such as EAB, in the Great Plains by assessing the region's tree resources, determining and addressing the potential impacts of invasives to those resources, creating public awareness of invasives and promoting species diversity. The project, the Great Plains Tree and Forests Invasives Initiative, is funded in part by a U.S. Forest Service grant.



Symptoms of EAB include winding tunnels just under the bark, one-eighth inch, D-shaped exit holes on the trunk, as well as canopy loss, usually from the top down. Ash trees infested with EAB also may have sprouts growing from the roots or trunk of the tree. Other symptoms include vertical splitting in the bark on the trunk and increased woodpecker activity.



The insect itself is bright, metallic green with a flat back. Adults typically are one-half inch long.



For more information about identifying ash trees and EAB, visit www.nfs.unl.edu or www.emeraldashborer.info.



Those who suspect EAB in their trees should contact the Nebraska Department of Agriculture at (402) 471-2394 or the National EAB Hotline at (866) 322-4512.