Emerald Ash Borer

Source: www.emeraldashborer.info

In Chicago and northeastern Illinois, ash trees are everywhere. And wherever there are ash trees, there’s a good chance there are emerald ash borers (EAB). Despite their green color, these beetles are not good for the environment. They are, in fact, responsible for the destruction of the ash trees that comprise an estimated 20 percent of Chicago’s street trees.

The EAB is native to Asia, but in June 2002, EABs were spotted in Michigan, their first appearance in the U.S. Six years later, an EAB infestation was confirmed at 29th and State Street in Chicago. Since then, the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDA) has issued an eight-mile quarantine around areas with known EABs.

Some scientists project that in about 10 years, the EAB will have destroyed all the ash trees in the area. However, officials remain optimistic.

“When you are dealing with an invasive species that establishes itself over such a broad area, it takes a team effort to address it effectively,” said Matt Smith, Chief Spokesperson for the Chicago Department of Streets & Sanitation, of which the Bureau of Forestry is a part. “We helped build such a team with our Federal and State allies when we dealt with the invasion of the Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB). In the end, we were able to eradicate the ALB. While we are still fighting EAB and watching for new invasive insects, we will continue to use the existing line of communications to coordinate efforts against future invaders.”

There are approximately 92,000 ash trees in Chicago’s public way, according to the Streets & Sanitation Department, as well as an estimated 400,000 on private property.

“The real impact is in our communities,” said Paul Deizman, Forest Management Programs Administrator of the Illinois Forestry Division. “There will be communities that lose 60 to 70 percent of their street trees. Those are the trees that are going to have an impact on our environment—urban storm runoff, overheating of cars, too much sun in everyone’s yard.”

There are three main approaches to the problem: chemical agents, bio-controls and tree replacement. Since 2009, the Streets & Sanitation Department has been applying the insecticide TREE-äge to ash trees. TREE-äge is 99 percent effective and it’s the best method for protecting individual trees. However, the treatment must be renewed every three years.

On a larger scale, the Streets & Sanitation Department has been working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, among others, on various bio-controls, or natural predators of the EAB. Specifically, they have been studying three wasp parasitoids: Spathius agrili, Tetrastichus planipennisi, and Oobius agrili. These bio-controls are not without their risks.

“Most of the time, when we tinker with nature it doesn’t go very well,” said Edith Makra, Community Trees Advocate at The Morton Arboretum. “The criticism is that if this natural predator is brought in, how do we know it won’t escape and kill a desired species?”

However, all three parasitoids appear to affect only the EAB. Officials began releasing them in small increments in 2009, and they are planning an ongoing release of approximately 7,500 more this summer. That might sound like a lot, but these tiny, non-stinging wasps range from the size of a small ant to ¼ the size of a poppy seed.

Long term, many ash trees need to be slowly phased out and replaced with a variety of trees in order to prevent a similar situation. “In the future, such trees could include different varieties of ash trees, or hybrids, that might prove resistant to the EAB,” said Smith. “Right now there is research underway at institutions like The Morton Arboretum to grow and test such different varieties.”

Symptoms of EAB infestation include crown dieback, in which branches at the top of the tree die, and vertically split barks. Another sign of infestation is the distinctive exit hole—“D” shaped with a 1/8 inch diameter—left by EABs as they exit the tree. These holes can occur anywhere on the trunk or upper branches.

To prevent the EAB from spreading further, it’s important not to transport firewood. Instead, burn it where it has been found.

“It’s good firewood, but the worst thing to do is to move it,” said Deizman. “We do not want to see the accordion expand and we don’t want to give it to any other state any faster than they are going to get it naturally.”

There are other uses for ash trees affected by the EAB. The Illinois Emerald Ash Borer Wood Utilization Team works to gather and use affected ash trees in wood products ranging from baseball bats to cabinetry.

“Ash is actually a very good wood,” said Makra. “It has a lot of properties like oak, and it’s very strong and shock absorbent.”

The EAB does not damage the wood of the tree it kills so the affected wood can be safely transformed into lumber. Although it’s impossible to reverse the damage, these products present a beautiful and practical way to reclaim the trees that the EAB has destroyed.

For more information, visit the links below.

Emerald Ash Borer Info

EAB Interactive Map, IDA

Illinois Emerald Ash Borer, IDA

The Morton Arboretum

Illinois Emerald Ash Borer Wood Utilization Team

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8 responses to “Emerald Ash Borer”

  1. Earnie says:

    Communities and homeowners can protect a tree for YEARS with available insecticides before equaling the cost of removing that same tree. Conservation of crucial environmental services provided by these mature trees is a fantastic side benefit of everyone’s instinct to soften impact of EAB on household and municipal budgets.

    Don’t get all a-twitter about the wasps just yet — figure on 5 years before researchers know if they are working, at which point most untreated ash near Chicago will be dead.

    Treatment works, even the products available to homeowners. Even on trees with low levels of infestation.

  2. Lisa says:

    There is a tree at the corner of Byron and Christiana in the Irving Park neighborhood of Chicago with clear signs of emerald ash borer infestation — “D” shaped exit holes and the tree is half gone. I’ve tried to alert the city and two aldermen (Mell and Colon) and the Illinois extension service. I made my first call a month ago to the city’s EAB hotline. No signs of response yet. I wish the city would reach out to citizens around this problem. We’re in the neighborhoods. We have the eyes that can see the trees that are dying. And we have cell phones to report the problem. But who do we call? And will they respond? We’ve had the parkway tree in front of our house treated. It’s that important to us. I understand the treatment is not surefire protection. We’re crossing our fingers.

  3. Michelle says:

    This is good information to have.

  4. TomJx says:

    Bayer’s Advanced makes ’12 month Tree & Shrub Insect Protect & Feed’ which kills the Emerald Ash Borer. You pour it around the base of the tree. I use it on my ash trees and have told my neighbors about it. It’s available at Home Depot, Menards, Lowes, and other home and garden places. Every homeowner should know about this, but no one I’ve told had heard of it before. They thought they had to spend a lot of money to have the trees professionally sprayed.

  5. Scott says:

    There is a true Ash tree success story playing out on Chicago’s west and northwest sides.

    The city decided to save the Ash species, every age and all sizes, by treating them with Tree Age brand insecticide injections every three years, preventing Ash trees from succumbing to the EAB.

    All the while proving success under pressure for treated trees from neighboring cities like untreated Oak Park, which has become a breeding and feeding ground for EAB with grand old parkway Ashes planted by the town’s original founders 120 years ago now just food for ever increasing bug colonies.

    Please come and see the proof yourself, just drive down Austin Blvd and see healthy injected dog tagged Ashes on Chicago side, verses suffering Ashes and Ash tree stumps for block after block on Oak Park side.

    I am calling on Gov. Quinn, Department of Agriculture and Dept. of Natural Resource to consider
    including treatment as a choice in the state funded reimbursement program which now is just helping towns recover cost for cut down and replacement, also to assist home owners who have to choose to treat their private trees AND now their parkway trees because their home town officials say treating trees is “not an option”.

    P.S. The Tree Age insecticide does not hurt yearly & 17 year root feeding cicadas, cutting down tree certainly does.

  6. Conserve Ash says:

    I just watched the video. I thought it was well done with respect to describing the EAB problem and research efforts to find/ breed resistant ash. But given that 1) Ash trees represent 20% of the urban forest in Chicagoland (which means many hundreds of thousands of ash trees), 2) EAB is going to kill virtually all the UNTREATED ash trees in the next 10 years, and 3) The loss of this many trees over such short time period will have very large and negative economic, environmental and public safety impacts on Chicago municipalities and property owners, I am mystified as to why the story did not also address what can be done to conserve existing ash canopy. As several commenter’s mention, ash can be protected from EAB through chemical treatment, and even infested trees can be saved from EAB if treated before there is significant foliage thinning (<40%). There are three EPA registered active ingredients that have proven effective against EAB in university research trials. Homeowners can buy two of these products at local home and garden centers (i.e. Bayer Advanced or Green Light with Safari), or hire a professional arborist to treat their ash trees. Treatment is much less costly than removal; it protects the environment by conserving tree canopy and it avoids the considerable public safety risks associated with dead trees and tree removal. "How can I save my ash?" is often the first question that a homeowner will ask when informed about EAB and told they have an ash tree on their property – and especially when they learn just how expensive tree removal can be.

    Why did WTTW not address how Chicago area residents and municipalities can conserve their urban forest?

  7. Lisa says:

    The Bureau of Forestry called me the morning after this post and said the tree was slated for removal, but might take a bit time because of a back log. Not sure how they got my number, but I’m glad to see that my attempt to contact city government worked. Thank you, Bureau of Forestry and City of Chicago. I wished I had asked about whether they’d treat trees in this area. How does the city decide what areas to treat? I’ll call my Alderman’s office to see if I can get more information.

  8. Scott says:

    Bayer Advanced contains Imidacloprid which has had
    good to mixed results, main problem being proper application.
    I am so glad that you are getting the word out about prevention.
    Check out this fact sheet of ever growing knowledge from our local Universities.