My husband and I were out running errands recently and as we crested a steep hill we were horrified to see several dead ash trees completely blocking the road. My husband slammed on the brakes and we screeched to a halt just in time. We couldn’t move the trees by ourselves and we risked getting hit if we stayed at the bottom of the hill. We quickly decided to engage our hazard lights and slowly back up the hill in the other lane. Once we safely made it to the top we called the sheriff’s department for assistance and rolled down the window to stop any other unsuspecting drivers from making the same scary trip. Fortunately, a carload of high school students came and jumped into action, dragging everything off to the side of the road.
This incident got to me to thinking about the devastating effects of the emerald ash borer (EAB) on much of the United States and Canada. From its discovery in 2002 in Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan to today, EAB has spread through three Canadian Provinces, as far west as Colorado, and as far south as Texas. Ohio’s infestation began in 2003 and quickly spread. It is estimated that twenty-five million trees have been killed by EAB with an economic impact of billions of dollars! In Ohio one in every ten trees is an ash.
Emerald ash borers attack all kinds of ash trees, from those that are weak or dying to those that are healthy, whether in the woods, along city streets, or your yard. The larvae feed on the inner bark of the ash tree, the layer called the cambium. According to the U.S. National Arboretum, larval feeding in this area is lethal to the tree because the cambium is the site of new wood and bark production, as well as nutrient and water transport. Interruption of this transport results in a dead ash within three to five years. If you have a dead or dying ash tree or trees in your yard or a woodlot, what should you do?
Once you are sure your tree is an ash, the first thing is to determine if the situation is hazardous. Will the tree pose a danger to people, pets, traffic, buildings, or other trees if it falls? If not, the tree could be left as is to provide valuable habitat for wildlife, creating nesting sites for birds, sheltered cavities for mammals, as well as structure for other organisms. Eventually your tree will decay and enrich the surrounding soil.
If you need to remove dead or dying ash, hire a reliable, insured, licensed arborist/tree removal service. If you have neighbors who are in the same situation, you may wish to join together which can produce cost savings for all. Before hiring be sure to get written estimates of the costs (including disposal and site cleanup) from several companies, along with proof of insurance and references. For woodland owners, check with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry at forestry.ohiodnr.gov/landownerassistance for technical assistance available from local Service Foresters or listings of professional foresters who provide consulting services. All of these experts can also advise you as to what options exist for the wood such as lumber, mulch, landscaping materials, art and furniture, or firewood.
Because ashes are so vital to Ohio’s forests, urban tree canopy, and to homeowners, replacements are needed. An excellent publication entitled Ash Replacements for Urban and Woodlot Plantings by the Ohio State University Extension can be downloaded for free at www.emeraldashborer.info/documents/OH/AshTreesOH.pdf. This handbook contains recommendations for tree species that can be used to replace ash species along with information on the site requirements and tolerances of the species, ornamental features, wildlife and woodland value, flood tolerance, and more. Color photos of the mature tree, bark, and leaves are featured for 35 species.
More information can be found at the following websites:
• Ohio Department of Agriculture at www.agri.ohio.gov/eab/eabresponse.aspx
• North Central IPM Center at www.emeraldashborer.info/documents/Multistate_EAB_Insecticide_Fact_Sheet.pdf
• International Society of Arboriculture at www.isa-arbor.com/publicOutreach/index.aspx
The Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District’s mission is Helping You Help the Land. It is time to vote for a candidate to fill a vacancy on our five-member Board of Supervisors. Details about voting absentee or voting in person can be found on our website at www.delawareswcd.org or by stopping by 557 A Sunbury Road in Delaware.
Bonnie Dailey is deputy director of the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District.