Ash Borer Problem Still Growing In Illinois

ST. CHARLES, Ill. (WBBM) — Five years after the Emerald Ash Borer beetle was discovered killing ash trees in Illinois, the battle is becoming more ferocious.

The ash borer was first discovered in the summer of 2006 in Illinois after having been responsible for the destruction of millions of ash trees in the state of Michigan.

Now, according to Scott Shirmer, the Emerald Ash Borer program manager for the Illinois Department of Agriculture, there probably have been hundreds of thousands, if not millions of ash trees in Illinois that have had to be cut down because of the bug.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports

Shirmer says 160 communities in Illinois are dealing with the Emerald Ash Borer problem.

The Emerald Ash Borer lays its eggs in crevices in the barks of trees near the top and the larvae burrow their way into the tree and begin feasting on the tree’s vascular system.

In St. Charles, city arborist Ben Deutsch says he’s been fighting the ash borer problem since 2008. Since then, he figures some 1,600 ash trees have had to be cut down because they were infested with the Emerald Ash Borer.

Out of 20,000 parkway trees in St. Charles, Deutsch says 5,400 of them are ash.

Deutsch says, “We thought last year was bad. This year was worse. We figured next year — possibly the year after that — will all be about like this year. Then it’ll slow down … one because we’ll start running out of ash trees.”

On Foxfield Court in St. Charles last week, a tree service removed an ash from the parkway in front of the home of a woman named, Sandy. She says she had an infested ash tree removed a few months ago from her front yard and is sorry to see both trees go.

“It’s very difficult because we spent four to five years treating both of them, hoping to save them once we heard the EAB was in Illinois but we didn’t quite save them”, she says.

Sandy says the trees will be missed, that “you never want to cut down trees.”

The state’s Scott Shirmer says that, although the Emerald Ash Borer was first discovered in Illinois in June 2006, it probably had infested trees several years before being found.

Shirmer says he doesn’t want to say it’s a losing battle but that, “we definitely have our hands full”.

In St. Charles, arborist Ben Deutsch says that, while the city can still afford it, new trees are planted when infested ash trees are cut down. He says he diversifies the kinds of trees that are planted in place of the ash.

Deutsch says St. Charles spends about $100-thousand a year taking down infested ash trees.

He says it costs about $300 to replace each tree taken out.

Signs an ash may be infested with the Emerald Ash Borer include thinning amount of branches at the tops of ash trees, or fewer leaves, and an increased presence of woodpeckers at ash trees.

  • treesmatter

    It’s so sad to hear about Sandy losing her treated ash trees. This is unusual and I hope WBBM will do a story about how __reliable__ treatment is, whether applied professionally or by homeowners.

    Here are the cautions —
    Homeowners planning on DIY treatment should first engage a certified arborist to evaluate the tree(s) for general health and structural soundness. If cleared on that front, ask that some coaching on DIY treatment be included in the consult visit. Most arborists are quite willing to do this. The best plan is to arrange for the arborist to make a return visit every couple of years to assure that treatments have been effective. After EAB blows through 6 – 8 years from now (locally), these check up visits might only be needed every 4 – 5 years.

    Things that can lead to treatment failure:
    Under-dosing (some brands of are only effective on trees up to 8″ diameter); applying to the mulch at base of tree instead of pulling it back and making the application directly to the mineral soil — mulch ties up the most commonly used DIY product; applying at the wrong time of the year; applying to soil that is excessively wet or dry; applying to frozen soil; applying to trees with extensive mower wounding at the base of the trunk, and so on.

    Even if treated correctly, failure to provide water during times of drought allows EAB larvae to do far more damage than when the tree has the resources to support active response to the vascular wounding. Other assaults to be avoided when trying to save trees include construction damage, sidewalk repairs, driving or parking vehicles over the root zone, de-icing salts, etc.

    Sometimes, at the peak of infestation, despite being carefully-applied treatment, green ash will show some dieback because they are less tolerant of the vascular wounding compared to white ash. If certain those trees have been treated correctly, have the deadwood removed and stay the course with treatment. If uncertain about whether treatments were ideal, have an arborist remove the deadwood and take over the treatments for a couple of years.

    Once the last untreated ash tree in an area has died, the treatment interval will extend from 12 to 24 or 36 months, making canopy conservation even more economical than it is today.

    The best resource WBBM could use for a story like this would be a practicing arborist that is well-versed in using all three products available for managing EAB. Anyone hawking a single product doesn’t fully understand EAB, nor how to help clients (private or municipal) economize on their EAB management plan.

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