ODA: Walnut Twig Beetles invading area walnut trees

(FOX19) - The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) is encouraging residents to check their trees for a rare insect invading the Cincinnati area.

They're called Walnut Twig Beetles, known to carry a fungus that can infect and ultimately kill walnut trees located all over the Tri-State.

ODA officials have found thousands of beetles in traps spread out across Butler, Warren, and Hamilton counties.

These bugs are no bigger than an inch and a half but they have the potential to cause major problems to the environment. The beetles first appeared in Ohio late last year in Butler County.

Officials say once the insects dig into the branches and trunk tissue of the walnut trees, it's only a matter of time before the trees die from the fungus causing Thousand Cankers Disease.

"It'd be very costly to the property owner. I don't think I'd want to be stuck with that," said Hamilton County resident Sonya Stallworth.

Just a year ago, Clermont County saw a similar situation involving Asian Longhorned Beetles. The U.S. Department of Agriculture ultimately decided to cut down thousands of infested trees. Robert Wenzel with Sharon Woods says they've also had this problem before.

"It was up on the hill up here. It was either a bug or a beetle that did it. They cut an acre of them down," said Wenzel.

Wenzel says the impact wasn't as big as the situation in Clermont County, but it definitely hurts.

"They started to die and the rest of them, they just cut down to keep it from spreading. It was pretty bad," Wenzel added.

ODA officials are in the process of expanding their regional quarantine in an effort to isolate the fungus and prevent it from spreading. Wenzel says he hopes these bugs aren't here to stay because nature is too valuable a resource.

"It kind of worries me because that means if they come attack the trees and stuff, that'll be less shade for everybody for one thing. The animals will have a hard time finding shade," said Wenzel.

These beetles carrying the Thousand Cankers Disease do not pose a deadly threat to humans.

Symptoms of a tree infected with the disease include thinning crowns or yellowing and wilted leaves. To report signs and symptoms on your trees, you're encouraged to contact the ODA at (614) 265-6860.

Copyright 2013 WXIX. All rights reserved.