Sunday, September 21, 2014

Ash Trees Dying All Around

A common sight around here
Global trade is generally beneficial.  It affords us a wide variety of goods at reasonable prices.  Companies move their sourcing and manufacturing for productive efficiency and as consumers we take advantage of the lower prices.  This is how economies and economic equilibrium works.
Because of these changes over the past 20 years, there have been a whole lot of shipments of goods from Asia to the US.  Millions of containers have been shipped filled with the goods we need and desire.  Many of these goods were stacked and secured onto pallets which are basically wooden platforms that fork lifts can easily pick-up and move. 
Even these wooden pallets were made in Asia.  They were made there for the same reason other products are made there; they are less expensive.  If the number of containers shipped from Asia to the US is in the millions, the number of pallets that have made the trip is at least ten times that.  That is a lot of wood that came from a lot of trees many of which were ash trees. 
Aninnocent looking pallet
When these pallets first started to come this way, no one thought anything about it.  Brand new pallets looked both clean and sturdy.   There were no apparent issues; apparent being the key word.  It is suspect those simple wood pallets might have carried the Emerald Ash Borer, an Asian species of beetle, that breeds and feeds under the bark of ash trees.  In Asia, they are a nuisance.  Here, because of the kinds of ash trees we have, they are tree killers.
Ash Trees in our back yard - they look healthy from afar
I have known about these beetles and their migration from China for at least ten years but never thought anything of it.  Well, I never thought anything of it until this year.  For some reason this year, I have noticed dead or dying ash trees all around Chicago land.  The dead ash trees are apparent as one drives up and down I-275.  Lake Forest, the town I live in, is in the process of tagging and taking down diseased trees.  There are a lot of ash trees around.
We have five ash trees on our property.  There are dead branches in two of them a very bad sign.  They are all dropping their leaves now... a good month ahead of time.  This also is not a good sign.  There is an inoculation that
Not so healthy up close
is given to healthier trees once every two years that hold the Emerald Ash Borer at bay.  One arborist offered to inject our trees.  Another said the trees are infected and damaged and probably will not survive.  He gave an estimate to take them down.  Neither option is cheap.
How serious is this issue?  Here is a little excerpt from a Wikipedia piece on the Emerald Ash Borer problem.
EAB threatens the entire North American Fraxinus [ash tree] genus. It has killed at tens of millions of ash trees so far and threatens to kill most of the 8.7 billion ash trees throughout North America.  Emerald ash borer kills young trees several years before reaching their seeding age of 10 years. Field studies of the first Michigan forests first infested with EAB showed that the borer had killed off > 99% of all living Fraxinus. Forest floor samples of these same plots resulted in ground soils void of seeds which could be capable of germinating continued generations.[20] The loss of ash from an ecosystem can result in increased numbers of invasive plants, changes in soil nutrients, and effects on species that feed on ash.
Almost 9 billion trees? Hard to fathom. 

Adult Emerald Ash Borer - They fly from tree to tree

Emerald Ash Borer Larva - these kill the trees


  1. Hey Mark, I am proud that you used my Wikipedia summery of technical scientific field studies in Michigan. Newest scientific info is discovery of .01% healthy surviving Green ash that contains several naturally defenses against EAB which cannot produce more offspring on. Unfortunately no surviving trees have been found of White, Black, Red, Blue or Pumpkin type ash yet. Hey that Arborist that said your trees too infected and won't survive obviously knows nothing about it since EAB does not "Infect" or "Disease" trees.

    Good observation on leaves falling earlier before fall. Ash is normally first species to drop them anyways, but not until beginning first week of October. Limbs that lost leaves the earliest wont come back next spring, but any branches that still hold leaves now, especially Green ones will regrow next spring. EAB exits trees in May to mate giving Ash several month chance to heal over previous damage by producing newest growth layer.

    Locate the healthiest one this fall and either "Double dose" it yourself by applying drench now in fall and again in spring. You can't kill a tree with too much insecticide, but EAB will definitely kill it anyways. Purchase 22, 44 or 75 WSB generic Imidacloprid and drench outside of trees base or rent soil injector and apply in grid pattern no deeper than 4 inches. Apply every spring around mid-April or by Mid-May. If any EAB damage first have arborist trunk inject "Tree-age" lasting THREE years, then take over with drench until danger from borer infestation populations pass by around 2020 locally. Since your trees look under 40 yrs. of age & size, professional cost should be $9 to $10 per DBH. (Diameter Breast Height=Circumference divided by 3=DBH.

    Trunk injected needs to be applied in May/June or before August the latest to effect that years EAB! October applied works for next year. Better to wait and see what comes back in spring before professionally applied but much cheaper drench some $20 worth per tree needs to be applied before leaves return next spring. Otherwise keep an eye out for independent removal crews cutting down trees near you. Ash them and they might give you cheep estimate on spot. No charge for special disposal of wood, and cost doubles once tree dead over two years! Even when healthy Ash which is best firewood species cut right off live tree for fire contains only 2% moisture. When dead quickly dries out and branches easily break off. Treating already too damaged tree will save what's still alive, but dead limbs won't come back and once removed, trees crown might be mis-shapened for 5, 10 yrs. or even longer.

  2. Ash has remarkable will to live once pressure from borers eliminated. Keep some lower "Sucker branches" temporarily attached since tree produced as healing process. They are weakly attached first few years. Their removal does not redirect trees resources upward. When cutting down have stump cut as low to ground as possible. Then unaffected by EAB root system will grow whole new tree from stump shoots. This ancient Coppice method involves "Singling" by selecting best shoot to grow new tree. Allowing multiple shoots to grow produces multi stemmed tree vulnerable to mortal wound when limb lost from storm rips open big hole tree cant heal over. Borers don't bore deeply into structure wood, only scores Phloem just under bark. Your very native evolved Green Ash has a possible lifespan of 300 yrs. so worth trying to save. You will know by first year of treatment if healthy enough to continue retreating in three yrs.

    Just e-mail me at for further details or links to technical resources.

    Here Chicago easily saved 96,000 trees since 2009 and tree-age is god-send. Only improper application affects success rate. Damaged trees need treatment applied earlier to allow more time for uptake since that system is damaged. Most important, water damaged tree in summer if treated since weaker limbs with less leaves will die from drought even though Ash species very drought tolerant since system compromised and weak branches selected by living tree as first to go if conserving resources. Heavy seeding means tree stressed. If you would like me to determine your five trees conditions, immediately take some new photos before leaves drop. Caution, there is so much misinformation about EAB being supplied to local media by expert arborist who just repeat outdated theories from six years ago.

    Some companies that others using them would suggest to you is Save-a-tree in Northbrook or Care-of-trees/Davies nation wide company. Try for Imidacloprid.75% stuff cheaper but 44% better because insecticide does not "Fall out of water as fast". Hope your family has a lot more options now.