Spring 2011: Is EAB still a concern?

Recently, the concern over emerald ash borer (EAB) seemed to have faded out of the media spotlight. After receiving a lot of attention when EAB was first found in Wisconsin in August of 2008, a general sense of knowing the insect is nearby seemed to satisfy those who were looking for a new big story. It may take something like a new EAB quarantine before this devastating insect grabs the attention again but this does not change the fact that it is here now and needs to be dealt with.

The emerald ash borer was first positively identified in Wisconsin in Newburg, which is on the Washington and Ozaukee county line a few miles east of West Bend. In 2009, EAB was found in the town of Victory in Vernon County near the Mississippi River in western Wisconsin, and was found on survey traps in Crawford and Brown counties. Closer to home, it was found in the communities of Franklin and Oak Creek in Milwaukee County in August of 2009. Then in 2010, the city of West Bend confirmed EAB while removing a green ash in one of the city’s parks.

Since being found in Michigan in 2002, EAB has destroyed millions of ash trees and has been found in 14 other states and two provinces in Canada. Some of that spread has been from the insects own disbursement and some has been by humans moving firewood and other ash materials that carry the beetle into new territories.

It has been documented in areas where emerald ash borer has moved through, the insect first enters a region then builds in numbers. After that, the EAB population explodes and causes mass devastation to the local ash population within a few short years. It would appear we are poised for a dramatic rise in the EAB population based on the discoveries around southeast Wisconsin.

It is the larval stage of the emerald ash borer that actually causes the death of ash trees. The larvae feed within the cambium of the tree just under the bark. This feeding cuts off the flow of nutrients and water within the tree. If this feeding by the larvae can be prevented, the damage to the tree will not occur and the tree can continue to live and grow. At this time, the only way to prevent EAB larvae feeding on ash trees is through the use of insecticides. These treatments are far more effective if they are done on a preventive basis prior to insect activity in the tree.

Not every ash tree will be or should be saved. Focus on Key trees for treatments. Key trees include those that provide essential shade to your house, specimen trees, and trees of high value to you or your property. Many people have identified the key trees in their yard and have already begun treating them. Some may not know which of their trees are ash. Others have identified the trees they would like to save, but do not believe the emerald ash borer is close enough to begin treatments. Remember, the best results for saving ash trees come from preventive treatments which keep trees healthy.

So make sure your key ash trees are prepared for the onset of emerald ash borer. Ash trees can be protected! We have the advantage of being able to prepare for EAB when other communities did not. Contact your Wachtel Tree Science Certified Arborist to help you take the steps to get ahead of EAB.

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