The benefits of trees are enormous.
But what happens when those valuable trees disappear?
Next time you hug a tree, be sure to silently thank it for the lives it is helping to save. New research suggests that urban forests help save thousands of lives every year.
Trees not only save lives, but according to a study by the U.S. Forest Service and the Davey Institute, they reduce hospital visits, the number of days taken off work and help people nationwide breathe better. They do this simply by absorbing pollutants like carbon dioxide and then breathing fresh oxygen back into the air we breathe.
So trees offer emotional, environmental and economic benefits, but what happens if those valuable trees suddenly disappear?
Enter the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), a small, glitter-green insect that has killed tens of millions of ash trees in the U.S. and millions more in the future.
Since first detected in 2002, these Asian insects have destroyed more than 50 million ash trees in 25 states and caused more than $10 billion to be spent for the removal, treatment and replacement of more than 17 million ash trees. In Ohio alone, the beetle has caused an estimated $3 billion in property value losses and ecological services.
“Its continued spread across the country is most likely due to the sale and transportation of firewood,” explains Jim Zwack, director of technical services for The Davey Tree Expert Co.
Even worse: Stress from climate events, namely drought, makes the trees more vulnerable to EAB. North American ash trees have no natural resistance to this foreign guest.
“Emerald ash borer is hard to detect with the untrained eye. The insects feed on tissue just below the bark, preventing the tree from transporting water and nutrients and eventually killing it,” explains Zwack. “Early decisions about the detection and treatment are critical to saving the ash trees before it’s too late for the tree, and for us.”
Ash trees are popular for their fast-growing, large-canopy and strength to withstand fast-changing weather events. Plus they’re inexpensive.
This invasive insect has the potential to wreak havoc on this popular tree unless early preventative measures are taken. If the insects go untreated, thousands of ash trees will need to be cut down to avoid a public safety problem.
“Research shows that homes within 15 miles of an EAB infestation should take preventative measures,” explains Zwack. “While the EAB pressure wanes on trees further than 15 miles, homeowners should still take an inventory of their ash trees and be on the lookout for signs of the borer.”
Zwack urges homeowners to inspect ash trees in and around their property for signs of borers. He says first homeowners need to identify an ash using these three defining characteristics:
• Bark—ash trees have a diamond pattern in the bark.
• Leaves—ash leaves have five to nine slender stand-alone leaves on each leaf stem.
• Branches—ash trees are commonly symmetrical and branches will be paired with another branch on the opposite side of the tree.
Next, Zwack suggests inspecting the ash for signs of distress. Zwack says the symptoms are clear. Look for excessive woodpecker activity and missing buds on the outer limbs of the trees. Most certified arborists will conduct an onsite inspection for free.
Other symptoms to check for:
• Chewing damage on leaf edges
• D-shaped holes chewed through the bark
• Bark splitting or S-shaped tunnels beneath the bark
• Canopy dieback that typically begins in the top one-third of the canopy
• Multiple sprouts of new growth at the trunk
The larvae, which are hard to spot, are cream-colored and approximately 1-1/4 inches long. Adults are small, metallic green beetles that are smaller than a penny, about 1/2 inch long and 1/8 inch wide.
“Treating the tree is a much less expensive option than replacing it,” says Zwack. “Multiple treatment options are available for homeowners to fit the scope and need of their landscape.”
Ash tree conservation efforts are stronger than ever, and multiple treatment options are available to help protect trees from EAB. Zwack and his team at The Davey Institute have partnered to research treatment options and product effectiveness against EAB in communities across North America.
Zwack also recommends homeowners plant different varieties of trees in and around the property so if one species suffers from disease, the entire urban forest won’t be wiped out completely.
EAB has been spotted in Michigan, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Ontario, Quebec and most recently, Colorado.
The best place to start is with a free EAB consultation from a professional arborist to determine if EAB is present and the possible treatment methods.
Trees never stop giving—and scientists know for a fact that trees improve quality of life in almost every way. Feel happier, improve curb appeal and breathe easier by the simple, yet powerful gesture of planting a tree—or taking care of the ones surrounding you.
Who to contact: call The Davey Tree Expert Company for plant health care advice today.
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Ed: Cat Beekmans