Quincy, homeowners must prepare for emerald ash borer

Emerald ash borer samples taken by United States Department of Agriculture Plant Protection Quarantine Officer Brian Sullivan in this 2004 photo. (AP Photo)
Posted: Nov. 19, 2012 9:50 am Updated: Dec. 3, 2012 11:15 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Destroying million of ash trees in the Midwest and Canada, the emerald ash borer is gradually moving farther west.

With few methods to fight the insect, the city of Quincy and homeowners are going to have to be prepared for this "tree killer."

Jeff Palmer, a certified arborist with tree injection technology company Arborjet, will discuss the danger of the insect and what effects it will have on ash trees during a presentation at 6:30 Monday in the council chambers at City Hall, 730 Maine. He will also touch on treatments and proper disposal of diseased trees.

Kari Houle, a horticulture extension educator with the University of Illinois Extension, said the outlook is grim for trees that are infested with the beetle.

"Unless it's been treated and it's consistently treated -- and even then it's not guaranteed -- it's pretty much a death sentence for the tree," she said.

Native to Asia, the beetle was first discovered in Detroit in 2002. The insect was first discovered in Illinois in 2006, and ash trees in Chicago and the Bloomington/Normal area have been lost because of the destructive bug.

"It's not a matter of "if,' it's a matter of "when' at this point, because it's getting transported by firewood," Houle said. "Once it gets here, the problem is ... ashes are really resilient trees, so it may be two years before we notice any problems. And by that time ... who knows how many trees have got this bug at this point."

Houle said one way to prevent the spread of the insect is by not transporting firewood.

"Buy it local and leave it there, because we've seen a lot of transport (of infested wood)," she said.

Houle said what is unfortunate for many communities is that after the American elm was wiped out by Dutch elm disease, 20 to 30 percent of replacement trees planted were ash.

"So on average, in most communities, 20 to 30 percent of their tree population is ash," she said. "It's scary numbers when you start thinking about it."

City Forester Pete Holtschlag said the city is working to get an accurate count of ash trees in the city. The last count was taken more than 15 years ago.

"Hopefully when we get a number, then we'll be able to come up with a plan and a strategy to remove as many as we can before it gets here," he said. "It could be two years. It could be four years."

While treatments are available, it is not a simple cure.

"You have to do it every year," Holtschlag said. "It's pretty pricey, and it depends upon the size of the tree."

Houle said some larger cities are using treatments to lower up-front removal costs.

"The reason they are treating is not to try to save the ash trees, but to be able to control removal and replacement costs on their own terms," she said.