Tulsa Has Avoided Emerald Ash Borer, But Officials Say City Must Prepare

Jan 7, 2020

An adult emerald ash borer.
Credit U.S. Department of Agriculture

Tulsa has not seen the apocalyptic infestation of emerald ash borers officials feared in recent years.

The destructive beetle was first detected near Grove in 2016.

"That actually has kind of sat still since then. So, nothing new has come up since then. It’s been just kind of stagnant, which is good," said David Zucconi, the City of Tulsa's urban forester.

Zucconi credits strict management practices by state and federal forestry officials for helping slow the spread of the emerald ash borer. He said it would still be best, however, to plan which of the roughly 900 city-owned ash trees to treat with chemicals to stave off the beetle, with several application methods possible.

"One of the ones that seems the best and the least invasive to the public is where we inject it in the base of the tree, and that used to last one to two years. They’re finding some new studies that it’s lasting up to three years," Zucconi said.

Other places fighting off the ash borers have had success introducing a species of wasp that attacks them.

Parks Director Anna America said the ash borer threat holds an important lesson.

"You really need species diversity, because who knows what the next bug or disease or something that might hit oaks, which obviously we’ve got a ton of in the Tulsa area," America said.

Native to eastern Asia, the emerald ash borer is considered an invasive species. Without control measures, all ash trees in an infested area are likely to die within 10 years.