The emerald ash borer has done major damage already in Northwest Indiana, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage, but it might prove to be a piker compared to what the Asian longhorn beetle can do.
Ann Brugos, executive assistant for the Valparaiso Public Works Department, said, since 2010, the city has removed 196 ash trees at an estimated cost of $123,437. The city replaced them with 379 trees costing $72,218. The city had a total of about 900 ash trees before the arrival of the ash borer.
The potential damage from the longhorn beetle is quadruple that for Valparaiso. The city has almost 3,500 maple trees along the city streets, which represents about 40 percent of all the city's trees on public property. The beetle also attacks other trees, but so far has not been seen closer than a Cincinnati suburb.
Public Works Director Matt Evans said, "We're trying to learn a new bug mug. You get one learned and implement a process to take care of it and you get another. I don't know enough at this point to formulate a concrete game plan. I am talking to some people and getting that information.
"It's never a good idea to be reactive," Evans said. "We try to prepare before they get here with education of ourselves and the public. We will see a more proactive education of the public with the Asian longhorn beetle. The emerald ash borer attacks one type of tree, but the longhorn beetles attacks more. That concerns me because of the bigger impact."
Munster took down 130 ash trees earlier this year and expects to do another 130 in the fall. Town Manager Tom DeGiulio said the town budgeted $75,000 for removal and got a low bid that is enabling it to continue removing trees identified as infested.
"After we cut them down, we have to replace them," DeGiulio said. "Some people are treating them, but that gets expensive if you've got hundreds and hundreds of them like we do. I know they are watching for (the other bugs), but there's not much you can do about them."
Portage Parks Superintendent Jenny Orsburn said Imagination Glen Park has been hardest hit by the ash borer. It's also in other parks, and the city is trying to locate affected trees and remove them before the problem gets worse.
DeGiulio compared the ash borer infestation to a tornado hitting the area in that some trees are affected while others nearby might not be.
"We refer the people who call to the Purdue Extension," he said. "They're the smart ones."