The markings and informational tags on the trees are actually meant to inform property owners about emerald ash borer, an insect that threatens the viability of all ash trees in Tippecanoe County and in much of Indiana. In the coming weeks, tags will be put on ash trees in other neighborhoods across the county.
"We're trying to give the community a heads-up," said Jodie Ellis, exotic insect education coordinator at Purdue University.
The emerald ash borer is an invasive beetle from Asia that attacks and kills North American ash trees. First found in Indiana in 2004, the insect tunnels on the wood's surface and slowly will kill every ash tree not protected with insecticides. The beetle was identified in Tippecanoe County in early May. It primarily is transported long distances through human activity, such as moving infested wood or logs.
To slow its spread, state officials have imposed a county quarantine on ash material and hardwood firewood. The insect has been identified in 38 of Indiana's 92 counties, according to an Aug. 4 update from the state Department of Natural Resources.
But Ellis said the disease spread is just a matter of time at this point. "We know it's coming and it's going to be a big issue for homeowners," she said.
Tracy Walder, who lives in the McAllister neighborhood and is chairwoman of the Lafayette Tree Advisory Committee, said she wants residents to be more aware of the devastation the disease will bring to the area's tree population. "It's similar to what people refer to back when the American elms died out," she said. "If we start losing all of the ash trees, we will lose a great percentage of the urban canopy. It's going to affect a lot in (property) value, safety and aesthetics."