(BLOOMINGTON) - The discovery of a tree-eating beetle in Bloomington has put hundreds of ash trees at risk and is forcing city and Indiana University officials to weigh whether to remove the trees or try to save them.
The emerald ash borer was discovered in October in a neighborhood on the city's south side. City officials say the shiny green beetle threatens about 900 trees along city streets and in public parks, as well as an unknown number in the Griffy Nature Preserve and on the IU campus.
About 7 percent of Bloomington's trees are at risk, but it could be worse. More than a third of Fort Wayne's trees have been affected, and the city has spent $1.5 million to cut down thousands of trees and treat at least a thousand others with insecticide.
Many of Bloomington's ash trees could be treated with insecticide because they are relatively young. A 1980 city ordinance required commercial developers to landscape along streets, and many planted ash trees at the city's recommendation.
"It fit in well with what city was trying to achieve in terms of tree diversity," Bloomington urban forester Lee Huss told The Herald-Times , noting that the ash borer wasn't on the horizon then.
The ash borer, which originated in Asia, was first detected in Michigan in 2002. The insects turned up in Indiana in 2004 and were found at the Hardin Ridge Recreation Area in Monroe County in 2008, presumably from firewood a camper hauled in from an infested location.
The city stopped planting ash trees in city parks and along streets in 2005.
Mia Williams, an IU landscape architect, said ash trees haven't been planted on the IU campus for a decade, but there are hundreds of ashes on campus, including some large, old trees.
She said a campus tree advisory committee will review whether to remove trees or treat them with insecticide.
Williams said insecticide treatment of ash trees at IU's Gary and South Bend campuses has been successful.
Huss said some communities have cut down all ash trees on public property.
"It's bad here, but it could be worse," he said.
Huss said officials have to weigh the value of trees along with their replacement costs in deciding whether to treat or remove them.
"In a time of tight budgets, it's going to be hard," he said.
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