Little bug, big problem

Submitted photoCarl Foley, from Foley Tree Care, demonstrates tree injections to protect an ash tree from the emerald ash borer. 

Avoiding the infestation of emerald ash borer is like avoiding the dentist when you have a sore tooth. Nobody likes to go to the dentist. We all know if we get a cavity and take care of it right away we can delay the loss or even save that tooth for many years. 

If we choose to ignore it and let nature take its course, that tooth will cause us grief and more expense in the end.

Emerald ash borer is that nasty cavity in ash trees in our community. If we have a plan and deal with this tiny, but devastating insect as it spreads, we can cut our costs and continue to enjoy these beautiful trees. The spread of this insect may take several years so we have time to get prepared.

Here are the first five steps you should consider in dealing with EAB. 

• Step one is to not panic. This insect does not fly any distance and will spread slowly in the next two to three years. Since it has been confirmed in Clinton, the whole community needs to learn and listen to experts from the DNR, tree specialists and Iowa State University Outreach and Extension. 

I will present programs in the community as new information is released from these experts.

• The second step is to do a tree inventory on your property. Know what trees are in your yard. 

Tree identification is easier with the leaves so wait until the new growth appears this spring. Ash leaves are compound leaves with seven to 13 opposite leaflets similar to a walnut leaf. At the Bickelhaupt Arboretum we can answer your questions about tree identification but we are not authorized to confirm actual EAB on your personal property.

• Step three is to have a plan for ash trees in your yard. You have three options. One option is to treat the trees to protect them from the insect which will invade the tree through the bark. Another option is to start removing trees which are not in good shape. This would include trees that are old, deformed or weak which may not live long anyway. 

The last option is to let nature take its course and deal with the dead trees and their removal when the time comes. The last choice may end up costing more in the long run so consider your choices carefully.

• The fourth step is to avoid transporting any ash firewood, untreated lumber, or uninspected wood any distance. This will help slow the spread of the insect. All 99 counties in Iowa are under quarantine as are surrounding states. This means you cannot sell, give away, or transport infected wood products for any reason including firewood.

• Step five is to be proactive by planting new trees of several different species. Look into both deciduous trees (those that drop their leaves during the dormant season) and conifers (evergreens). Since we have a good percent of maples and oaks, go light on these tree types. Check around at local nurseries for new and interesting tree varieties.

The arboretum will have informational and updated programs on EAB throughout the summer so stay tuned and stay informed.


Margo Hansen is the Director of Programs at Bickelhaupt Arboretum.

This Week's Circulars