Be afraid – the emerald ash borer is on the march. This most destructive of bugs has been spotted in Atlanta and represents a significant threat to the health of not only ash trees but possibly other species too.
The emerald ash borer (EAB) arrived in the USA in 2002, believed to have been carried in ash wood used to stabilize crates during shipping. Since then, it has spread far and wide – killing what is estimated to be tens of millions of ash trees and threatening not to stop until its voracious appetite for damage has wiped out pretty much all of the near nine billion ash trees throughout North America. It has been calculated that by 2019 the borer might have caused $10 billion in economic damage.
It’s on the move, too. The emerald ash borer was officially spotted for the first time in Georgia in July 2013 and currently most of the metro Atlanta area is under quarantine. What this means to the public is that all wood (including branches, logs and wood chips) from ash trees must not be taken for processing to a non-quarantined county. The homeowner should assure himself that his tree service is in compliance.
The EAB attacks and harms trees by laying eggs in the bark. The larva in turn disrupts the flow and distribution of nutrients and eventually starves the tree. The eggs hatch and the ash borer larvae live underneath the bark of ash firewood, hidden from view, and people unwittingly give the pest a ride when they move firewood around. As a result, the message, Don’t Move Firewood has been distributed, with people being urged not to move firewood around, buying from one location and transporting to another. Don’t carry it across county or state lines – get wood from local sources and burn it where you buy it. Especially do not bring firewood from the Atlanta metro area to camp sites outside the metro area. This may be the most common way EAB spreads.
As a precautionary measure, pesticides can be applied, either directly to the tree or in the ground surrounding the trunk so that the root system picks it up. If a tree has already been attacked, be aware of what to look out for. Signs of infestation include thinning and yellowing leaves and D-shaped holes in the bark of the trunk.
IF YOU HAVE AN ASH TREE IN THE ATLANTA METRO AREA, IT IS VERY LIKELY IT WILL BE KILLED BY EAB WITHIN THE NEXT SEVERAL YEARS. If you wait until you see symptoms, it will be too late to save the tree. The best action you can take NOW is to treat every ash tree with a systemic insecticide using the basal root drench method. Some arborists in other areas have been successful in performing annual prophylactic basal root drenches using over-the-counter insecticide solutions containing Imidacloprid available from retailers like Home Depot and Lowe’s. Arborist companies like 404-CUT-TREE can do this for you, but homeowners can easily do this themselves.
If you see symptoms of EAB, make sure you report it immediately; the Stop the Beetle campaign from the United States Department of Agriculture has further advice and contact details. Call an arborist, too. A representative from 404-CUT-TREE will be able to assess the health of the tree which is potentially at risk and prescribe the treatment.