The emerald ash borer, an invasive insect expected to wipe out most ash trees, has been found in central Nebraska.

The insect was found along a street in Kearney by the local parks department, and the discovery was confirmed by the Nebraska and U.S. Departments of Agriculture.

This is the first Nebraska discovery outside the eastern portion of the state, according to a press release from the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.

The insect, native to Asia, was first found in Omaha in 2016, and since then several eastern Nebraska counties have been placed under quarantine for the movement of ash trees and wood.

Steve Wellman, director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, said it’s inevitable the insect will continue to spread.

Infestations are devastating because ash trees make up a sizable percentage of the natural and urban forest. When they die, the trees become brittle and pose a significant hazard to property and public safety. Cities are proactively removing ash trees.

The borer is a small, metallic-green beetle that is about half an inch long. Its larvae tunnel under the bark of ash trees and effectively starve the tree of water and nutrients. Thinning and dying branches at the top of ash trees are a symptom.

Cass, Dodge, Douglas, Lancaster, Otoe, Sarpy, Saunders and Washington Counties are under quarantine, which means saplings from that area can’t be sold or moved elsewhere. The movement of firewood, mulch and other ash products is restricted. With the help of citizens, Nebraska can slow the spread of the borer, Wellman said.

Nancy Gaarder helps cover public safety and weather events as an editor on The World-Herald's breaking news desk. Follow her on Twitter @gaarder. Email: nancy.gaarder@owh.com

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