They aren’t here yet. But they’re coming.

It’s only a matter of time, AJ Hemmerla, Ottawa, said, before the emerald ash borer makes its way to Ottawa and surrounding areas. Hemmerla, a 14-year-old Boy Scout, is aiming toward his Eagle Scout designation by working with the City of Ottawa’s parks and recreation department to raise awareness of the pest.

In August 2012, emerald ash borers were detected in Wyandotte County. Since then, efforts have been made to quarantine any shipments of certain firewood, nursery plants and mulch in and out of Wyandotte County.

“[The pest] mostly prefers green or black ash trees, but other kinds can be hit as well,” Hemmerla said. “Its larvae burrows into the bark and makes galleries between the trunk and the bark, which cuts off nutrients and supplies to the tree.”

The emerald ash borer is native to Asia and was first discovered in North America near Detroit, Mich., in the summer of 2002, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service.

According to the Kansas Department of Agriculture, since then, the pest has killed millions of trees in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Missouri, Kentucky, New York, Iowa, Tennessee, Connecticut and, most recently, Kansas.

As part of his Eagle Scout project, Hemmerla said, he is working to raise awareness about the pest, as well as the traps that have been set to slow the emerald ash borers’ journey from Wyandotte County to other areas of Kansas.

The U.S. risks an economic loss of $20 billion to $60 billion because of the pest, the department of agriculture reports. The department said it plans to set 65 traps in nine counties including Butler, Jewell, Leavenworth, Neosho, Osborne, Pottawatomie, Russell, Shawnee and Smith. Such traps help monitor any infestation by using early detection.

Knowing the signs of an infestation is key to preventing the spread of the pest, Hemmerla said.

“The burrows for the larvae are mostly in a “D” shape,” he said. “They make D-hole shapes, and that’s how they burrow into the trees.”

A single emerald ash borer only travels about a half a mile a year, Hemmerla said, but it still poses a threat because self-propelled travel is not the pest’s main way of infestation. Because of ash trees’ ability to burn well, they are cut down and used as firewood. If an infected ash tree is cut down, made into firewood and transported for use, its end location also becomes infested.

Prevention and treatment options are available to halt infestation and to treat if infestation already has occurred.

Such options come in four categories: systemic insecticides that are applied as soil injections or drenches, systemic insecticides applied as trunk injections, systemic insecticides applied as lower trunk sprays and protective cover sprays that are applied to the trunk, main branches and foliage. Professionals and homeowners alike can use such tactics.

Although prevention and early detection are key, Hemmerla said, it is not a matter of if, but when, the emerald ash borer makes its way to Ottawa and Franklin County.