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Emerald ash borer continues to wreak havoc on ash trees

10/10/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Dayle Davis

Once majestic ash trees, shown above, succumb to removal after being devastated by the emerald ash borer, shown above.
Photos: Dayle Davis

FAIRLAWN — This past week, the fourth of our original nine ash trees was brought down carefully and methodically in our backyard by a tree removal expert.

The individual went about his task from the safety of a large bucket suspended at the end of a hydraulic lift. It was hard to watch as the skeleton of a formerly beautiful ash tree was removed branch by branch, limbs dropping to shatter into a million pieces on the ground. Shattering because, as the arborist explained, chemical changes brought about by the attack of the emerald ash borer (EAB) renders the structure of the trunk and branches of any afflicted ash tree too brittle and too dangerous to climb in the usual fashion of cutting down a tree.

So far, tens of millions of ash trees have been killed by EAB in more than 23 states, including Ohio. With 60 percent of its trees being ash, this widespread infestation of the ash borer is devastating. Ash trees infested with EAB typically die within two to five years, from the top down. Area forests will not recover in our lifetimes. In our own backyard, five full-size ash remain, at high risk.

The EAB designation belongs to a group of metallic green, wood-boring beetles. Adults are dark green, one-half inch in length and 1/8-inch wide and fly only from early May until September. Larvae spend the rest of the year beneath the bark of ash trees, and when they emerge as adults, leave tiny D-shaped exit holes in the bark about 1/8-inch wide.

Speaking from personal experience, if you have healthy ash trees, don’t wait until it’s too late to take action to protect your trees. Be proactive, and don’t trust yourself to do the job. You will almost certainly fail. Somehow I thought that a casual soil drench applied yearly around our trees using an over-the-counter product from a local home and garden center would afford the sole protection that was needed. It’s not like that at all. Waiting until after initial signs of EAB show on trees is probably too late to save them. I urge everybody with ash trees in their landscape to consult an arborist to determine and employ preventive measures now.

For example, if a tree has lost more than 50 percent of its canopy, it is probably too late to save the tree. This is the case for our trees. Both showed signs of EAB quite suddenly — one day the tree trunks seemed perfect, the next day they were riddled with holes created by woodpeckers sensing the larvae feeding under the tree bark. We hadn’t been noticing the thinning of the canopy until the arborist pointed it out.

He explained that it is best to treat ash trees with insecticides while the ash trees are still relatively healthy because the insecticides act systemically. That is, the insecticide must travel through the trees circulatory process to begin to be effective. If the tree is already compromised, it is probably not healthy enough to move the insecticide effectively through its system.

Available treatments include soil-applied systemic insecticides, trunk-injected systemic insecticides, noninvasive basal trunk sprays and protective cover sprays.

By now experts have learned that healthy ash trees seem to glean the most resistance from EAB using a combination of soil drenches and trunk/tree sprays applied at intervals each year. And yes, the costs can add up. Each homeowner will have to determine what works best for them.

Here’s the thing about losing one’s trees. We’ve lived in our home 22 years. The trees have always been beautiful. They provide shade and cooling in summer, lovely color in the fall and stark beauty in winter. Trees increase the quality of the landscape. In our backyard, ash trees, among others, have faithfully provided the shade necessary to keep one of the large perennial shade gardens viable and healthy. But those plants can’t live there any more. Once shaded adequately, the perennials have suffered greatly this year, tender green foliage blistering and burning from unaccustomed sunlight and turning brown and dry on their stems. We’ve lost not just some wonderful trees, but also the beauty of a shade garden.

In the scheme of things, there is much to be grateful about life outside of trees and gardening. Forgive me for using this humble column to vent a bit about the loss of my botanical backyard friends. This coming winter, I shall buckle down and sketch out a new garden, choosing plants with a penchant for sunnier foundations.

And the remaining five ash trees in our yard? We are still optimistic and fighting hard to save these beauties that provide much of the cover for our remaining shade gardens — scheduling trunk sprays twice yearly and soil drenches once per year. I’ll keep my fingers crossed and hope you do, too.

For more information, visit www.emeraldashborer.info/files/Multistate_EAB_Insecti cide_Fact_Sheet.pdf.

 

Dayle Davis is a freelance writer and avid perennial gardener, with a B.A. in communications and course work in botany, geology and wildflowers. Davis is a master gardener emeritus under The Ohio State University’s Horticultural Extension.

By Dayle Davis

FAIRLAWN — This past week, the fourth of our original nine ash trees was brought down carefully and methodically in our backyard by a tree removal expert.

The individual went about his task from the safety of a large bucket suspended at the end of a hydraulic lift. It was hard to watch as the skeleton of a formerly beautiful ash tree was removed branch by branch, limbs dropping to shatter into a million pieces on the ground. Shattering because, as the arborist explained, chemical changes brought about by the attack of the emerald ash borer (EAB) renders the structure of the trunk and branches of any afflicted ash tree too brittle and too dangerous to climb in the usual fashion of cutting down a tree.

So far, tens of millions of ash trees have been killed by EAB in more than 23 states, including Ohio. With 60 percent of its trees being ash, this widespread infestation of the ash borer is devastating. Ash trees infested with EAB typically die within two to five years, from the top down. Area forests will not recover in our lifetimes. In our own backyard, five full-size ash remain, at high risk.

The EAB designation belongs to a group of metallic green, wood-boring beetles. Adults are dark green, one-half inch in length and 1/8-inch wide and fly only from early May until September. Larvae spend the rest of the year beneath the bark of ash trees, and when they emerge as adults, leave tiny D-shaped exit holes in the bark about 1/8-inch wide.

Speaking from personal experience, if you have healthy ash trees, don’t wait until it’s too late to take action to protect your trees. Be proactive, and don’t trust yourself to do the job. You will almost certainly fail. Somehow I thought that a casual soil drench applied yearly around our trees using an over-the-counter product from a local home and garden center would afford the sole protection that was needed. It’s not like that at all. Waiting until after initial signs of EAB show on trees is probably too late to save them. I urge everybody with ash trees in their landscape to consult an arborist to determine and employ preventive measures now.

For example, if a tree has lost more than 50 percent of its canopy, it is probably too late to save the tree. This is the case for our trees. Both showed signs of EAB quite suddenly — one day the tree trunks seemed perfect, the next day they were riddled with holes created by woodpeckers sensing the larvae feeding under the tree bark. We hadn’t been noticing the thinning of the canopy until the arborist pointed it out.

He explained that it is best to treat ash trees with insecticides while the ash trees are still relatively healthy because the insecticides act systemically. That is, the insecticide must travel through the trees circulatory process to begin to be effective. If the tree is already compromised, it is probably not healthy enough to move the insecticide effectively through its system.

Available treatments include soil-applied systemic insecticides, trunk-injected systemic insecticides, noninvasive basal trunk sprays and protective cover sprays.

By now experts have learned that healthy ash trees seem to glean the most resistance from EAB using a combination of soil drenches and trunk/tree sprays applied at intervals each year. And yes, the costs can add up. Each homeowner will have to determine what works best for them.

Here’s the thing about losing one’s trees. We’ve lived in our home 22 years. The trees have always been beautiful. They provide shade and cooling in summer, lovely color in the fall and stark beauty in winter. Trees increase the quality of the landscape. In our backyard, ash trees, among others, have faithfully provided the shade necessary to keep one of the large perennial shade gardens viable and healthy. But those plants can’t live there any more. Once shaded adequately, the perennials have suffered greatly this year, tender green foliage blistering and burning from unaccustomed sunlight and turning brown and dry on their stems. We’ve lost not just some wonderful trees, but also the beauty of a shade garden.

In the scheme of things, there is much to be grateful about life outside of trees and gardening. Forgive me for using this humble column to vent a bit about the loss of my botanical backyard friends. This coming winter, I shall buckle down and sketch out a new garden, choosing plants with a penchant for sunnier foundations.

And the remaining five ash trees in our yard? We are still optimistic and fighting hard to save these beauties that provide much of the cover for our remaining shade gardens — scheduling trunk sprays twice yearly and soil drenches once per year. I’ll keep my fingers crossed and hope you do, too.

For more information, visit www.emeraldashborer.info/files/Multistate_EAB_Insecti cide_Fact_Sheet.pdf.

 

Dayle Davis is a freelance writer and avid perennial gardener, with a B.A. in communications and course work in botany, geology and wildflowers. Davis is a master gardener emeritus under The Ohio State University’s Horticultural Extension.

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