Get ready for Ash-tree-mageddon.
If it hasn’t already struck on your block or in your neighborhood, it will soon. And it will be like Armageddon.
Take it from Village of Oak Lawn forester and arborist Heather Green.
She predicts all of your green ash and white ash trees will die as a result of the invasion of the Emerald Ash Borer. The metallic green beetle is no larger than a penny but packs a wallop the size of a Red Army.
In the case of the Emerald Ash Borer, Green’s findings are like those of experts elsewhere around the Midwest: Tiny beetle larvae deposited under tree bark feed on tree veins and prevent a supply of nutrients and water from being delivered to vital organs, thus leading to tree demise.
So, how should you prepare for the end of your ash tree world? What is your parkway or back yard going to look like in six months? Two years?
“They are here,” Green said of the infestation of the Emerald Ash Borer in northern Illinois and the collar counties of metropolitan Chicago. Experts believe the native Asian beetle species first was brought to the United States in ash wood used to transport cargo on ships near the turn of the millennium.
Emerald Ash Borer: Prepare for the Worst
So what should you do?
“Well, it depends on where you live and what your community’s protocol is,” Green said. “If it is a tree on your property, you need to do some research and get educated on some of the options you have.
“There are options. Bottom line, the tree is going to die. No way to stop it. Now, what you can do—you can prolong that. You can defer it if you choose to do so. And some trees are worth that. If you have one really large, good-structured white ash strategically placed in your landscaping and it provides a lot of value to you, you can look into injecting.
“If the tree is not significantly infested, you do that on private property, depending on where you live. It’s going to cost you say, $200 or $300, to inject it and that may be for a year or two years. But, after that is up, you have to make a decision.
“Am I ready to inject again? So, you have to inject or start the process for removal. You could go 10 years. But at 10 years, your tree is still at risk of dying from the Emerald Ash Borers. So, you’ll need to inject again. Or you’ll need to remove and replace. As a homeowner, you’ll need to balance that out.”
How much money do you want to spend on a tree that is going to die?
“Exactly,” Green said. “If this tree was planted by someone significant to you or has some significance that way, or if this tree has an effective canopy that helps you with the shading and cooling of your house and is not in poor structure—it’s not going to fall apart—then it might be a good investment. But at the same time you’re injecting, you should be putting some money away for removing and replacing.”
Green said to think of injections as a method of medicating your tree. Insecticides are used as a stopgap measure to kill the Emerald Ash Borer larvae. But since the insecticides are injected inside the tree, they only kill existing larvae and they won’t harm the adult Emerald Ash Borer population.
The adult beetles feed on tree leaves until they are ready to lay new eggs. And new larvae will continue to eat away at trees in a revolving-door-like process, Green said. And, as long as there are ash seed sprouts and ash tree roots in the ground, thereby providing a food source, she said there will be Emerald Ash Borers.
Beetle Mania: Problem is Widespread
How prevalent is the EAB problem in the Chicago metro-area?
“It’s very prevalent,” Green said. “In some towns you go into, you can see trees that are dead or half-dead. I would imagine every ash tree in the Chicago area has some level of infestation.”
In Oak Lawn, one of the village’s hit the hardest, 114 parkway ash trees were removed in 2011 through a $30,000 federal grant program that also will allow the village to start replanting trees.
Green said plans call for the removal of another 490 trees in 2012, many in the 107th Street, Keating and Kilpatrick area of Oak Lawn. If all goes as planned, 1,000 more parkway ash trees will cut down in 2013 and ’14, bringing the grand total to about 1,600 lost trees in the village.
“That’s a huge feat, though,” Green said. “That’s assuming Mother Nature works with us and doesn’t give us storms to complicate things.”
To prepare for the loss of ash trees in yards and on private property, Green suggests homeowners start planting their own new trees now.
“Plant another tree over here that starts to grow—strategically, not just throw a tree in the ground, but a good tree for that space,” she said.
Green recommends checking the link to replacement trees on the Village of Oak Lawn’s website, the list of trees running the gamut from bur oak to sugar maple.