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Over the Garden Fence

Where gardeners come to find out what's happening out in the yard.

Emerald Ash Borer in the Fox Valley

Posted by Richard Hentschel -

Down the Garden Path

Richard Hentschel, Extension Educator

Now that spring is well underway and all of our trees have begun to grow, it is pretty clear as you look around your neighborhoods, that ash trees are really suffering the impact of the Emerald Ash Borers. Our locust trees are some of the slowest to leaf out and those are showing good signs of growth, but not any heavily infected ash trees.

While all our trees were dormant for the winter, you could not really tell how bad things are for the ash. With everything else greening up, it is easy to spot those ash trees that have fallen victim to the borer. If the migrating woodpeckers have been visiting your ash, then that is pretty good sign the borer is present. A woodpecker can detect the borers below the bark in the cambium layer and take the time to discover them, leaving those holes begin.

Once an ash tree dies, the branches, limbs, twigs dry and become brittle, can easily break and come down during rain storms and days when he wind is really strong. Prior to this point, canopies will be thin, interior branches will die, and you will see sprouts coming out of the main trunk anywhere from the base of the tree and up the trunk into the lower portions of the canopy. On trees right now, growth is very slow with just a tuft of green at the ends of branches.

Trees that are over 50% affected by the borer cannot be saved. Trees that look perfect right now can still have the Emerald Ash Borer inside and not show any signs. These trees are the ones to try and save if that is appropriate. Homeowners can make treatments themselves or have it done by a certified arborist. An arborist will have treatments available that a homeowner does not. Right now is a great time treat with a systemic product as trees are just starting to grow and the food and water in the trees is moving upward. Any systemic treatments will be carried up into the canopy as well. For the products available to the homeowner, it is recommended that treatments over two years is needed to make sure the entire tree receives enough chemical. Commercial treatments, depending on the product used, could be applied every other year. Once you decide to treat to protect your ash tree, these treatments must continue every year to help the tree resist borer infestation. If you have a tree that will be coming down, you are now allowed to use the wood as you would like in your yard. If the tree is chipped, using that for mulch in other plantings is a way to recycle. If the trunk is sound and your interest is in the lumber for outdoor furniture or a new fireplace mantle that is ok too. Since the borer has been discovered in so many locations throughout northern Illinois, the State Department of Agriculture is no longer being as restrictive as to how the infested and dead trees are handled.

Take a walk or drive and you will begin to see just how many ash trees were planted over the last 20-30 years and you will quickly see just how big the problem is.

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