Spring 2012 - EAB Lessons

Fall 2010 Newsletter in Adobe PDF format


By: John Gall, Municipal Specialist WI-0249AM, & Ron Gumz, Certified Arborist MN-0324A 

Sometimes when we are faced with a new challenge such as emerald ash borer (EAB), it can be less stressful if we can learn from others who have had similar experiences.  Many common interest network groups are based on this premise.  Thankfully, here in southeast Wisconsin, we have experience and knowledge gained from many other communities in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan who have been dealing with EAB much longer than we have.  This network of tree care professionals has given us many insights on how to deal with the impending rise in numbers of EAB in southeastern Wisconsin.

Here are some important lessons learned over the past 10 year s of dealing with emerald ash borer:

-        Eradication cutting has not worked to eliminate the pest.  It’s here to stay.

-        Preventive treatments will work to save valuable ash trees.

-        It will take additional time and money to deal with this insect.

-        Don’t move firewood.  This is the most common way EAB is spread.

-        This insect is coming.  It’s just a matter of time before it will be in your neighborhood.

We have learned pesticide treatments work best as a preventive measure.  The City of Milwaukee decided several years ago to take a proactive stance with EAB and began treating since so many of its public parkway trees are ash. Of the city’s 200,000 street trees, 18% are ash.  They want to be able to systematically manage the removal of their public ash over a prolonged period and in turn plant a diverse species population in return.   Ian Brown, Urban Forestry Technical Services Manager for the City of Milwaukee states, “These public ash make a green tunnel going over the street. They have storm water benefit, air pollution mitigation, and it would take a long time to get a replacement tree back in its place.”

We have learned any ash tree that is not protected, regardless of how close the nearest ash tree is, will be a target for EAB feeding.  Usually by the time the symptoms of EAB become apparent; the tree is in an irreversible state of decline and cannot be saved.  Trees can live with this borer for several years before showing symptoms.  During the first few years (years 1 – 4) of an EAB infestation, insect activity is hard to detect.  Beginning in year 5, and continuing through at least year 12, the insect population explodes, rising exponentially in areas where ash protection is limited or non-existent.  Community budgets become overwhelmed; homeowners are overwhelmed; professional arborist firms are overwhelmed trying to keep up with the demand for timely removal services.

We have learned how it will take extra effort to deal with this insect as in this example from Illinois:

Arlington Heights set to spend $11.5 million battling EAB”   Michelle Stoffel, The TribLocal

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS - While Arlington Heights is not funding any preventative treatment options to combat emerald ash borers, the board is eying spending $11.5 million removing and replacing infected trees. The city has 13,000 parkway ash trees. Quote from a Lake Bluff, IL arborist, “Have you been in Libertyville lately? It’s decimated from EAB: no treatment and no replacement trees. THAT’s a disaster for our neighborhoods and our house values.”

We have also learned about how infested ash wood and other debris can speed the spread of emerald ash borer.  The WI-Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and other governmental agencies have done a good job of getting the information out about not moving firewood.  When ash trees are removed, the insect remains in the wood.  The Milwaukee metro area and surrounding counties are in a quarantine zone which restricts movement of ash material from this zone in an effort to slow the spread.

We have learned if you have an ash tree, you need to be concerned!  In monitoring the spread of EAB in northern Illinois over the last five years, it has gone from one isolated area to fully infested regions.  This has been repeated in other communities that have had EAB spread through their region also.  The speed of the spread has always been faster than anticipated.  So as we see the issue of the emerald ash borer become a bigger problem in our landscape, we will continue to benefit from the lessons learned by others who have already been dealing with this tiny little insect.

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