The Emerald Ash Borer Is In the Neighborhood

Emerald Ash Borer photo courtesy of ksda.gov

Emerald Ash Borer photo courtesy of ksda.gov

A few weeks ago, while I was outside thinning the lilacs, a tree care company stopped by my property. As the operator began to pull a long hose toward my ash tree, I called out to the man, assuming he had mistaken a property address. No mistake, as it happened. My village, it seemed, decided to treat all parkway ashes for Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). Happily, as I learned from the pesticide applicator, since my Green Ash is within 30 feet of the street’s center line, it is considered a “village tree”. I say “happily” because if the tree dies, the removal expense belongs to the village and not to me.

Unfortunately, the village didn’t do a very good job of notifying residents that the root injection application would be taking place. As I chatted with the operator, he informed me that the police had been called out dozens of times, by anxious residents, to “apprehend” him for trespassing. (Note to village:  Next time, cough up the money for a postcard alert. It’ll be a lot cheaper than having police chase a tree care man all over the village.)

Green Ash killed by the Emerald Ash Borer

Green Ash killed by the Emerald Ash Borer

When I asked the operator whether the EAB had been spotted in the village, he referred me to an ash tree less than one block away. I’ve furnished a photo of said tree, which last year was completely leafed out. You can see the devastation wreaked by the EAB in just one year. (As an aside, it’s as well I took this photo when I did. Ten days after I photographed the tree, it was cut down by the village–the absolutely proper measure to be taken in order to destroy the insect’s habitat.)

Ash trees can also be attacked by the Ash-Lilac Borer, a clear-winged wasp that, as its name suggests, attacks ashes and lilacs. However, the Ash-Lilac Borer, unlike the Emerald Ash Borer, only attacks trees or shrubs that are under stress. Additionally, damage from the Ash-Lilac Borer usually isn’t fatal. The afflicted plant can be kept in reasonable health for years simply by applying proper cultural practices (water during droughts, prune out rubbing branches, treat for insect pests, and so forth).

To be perfectly frank, I’ve never been a fan of Green Ashes. They have an awkward, ungainly growth habit and unimpressive fall color. Their only redeeming value is that they grow moderately fast in almost any soil. Developers and municipalities like them because they’re cheap to purchase. The problems develop when municipalities allow any one species of tree to be over-planted. Eventually, city or village officials panic as Emerald Ash Borer or Dutch Elm Disease or Chestnut Blight comes along and wipes out most, if not all, of the trees. Talk about being penny wise and pound foolish!

I’ll be keeping a close watch on my ash, which is the only back yard shade tree, and which is now about 30 feet tall. In the meantime, all I can do is keep the tree well-watered during the heat waves and hope that the imidacloprid treatment does its job.

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