Bleak future for local ash trees
The impact that the emerald ash borer has had on this area’s ash tree population is evident by the thousands of trees that have had to be chopped down over the past few years.
And while area communities have been successful in identifing ash trees infested with the emerald ash borer, the future of ash trees in the region is bleak.
“There is no way to control it through eradication,” said Kris Bachtell, vice president of collections and facilities for Lisle-based Morton Arboretum. “It’s way out of the box from that. If they are not treated, they will be dead within probably a five-year period.”
About 12.7 million ash trees in the seven-county Chicago region are or will be affected by the insects, according to the Morton Arboretum.
The emerald ash borer is a destructive, non-native pest that feasts on ash trees. The first case in Illinois was found in June 2008 within The Windings subdivision in Campton Township.
The infestation happens when emerald ash larvae bores through the bark and into the area where nutrient levels are high.
As a result, the tree no longer is able to transport water and nutrients to where it is needed.
The city of St. Charles this year again is participating in a project that provides parkway ash trees with five years of protection from the emerald ash borer. Currently, about 78 parkway ash trees are receiving five years of protection.
St. Charles has been participating in the project since 2010 and is one of only a dozen communities in the United States selected for the partnership project sponsored by Valent Professional Products.
Valent’s Safari insecticide, which contains the same active ingredient used in flea control products for pets, is applied by soil injection at the base of each tree. Peter Suhr, the city’s assistant director of public works, said the city has been proactive in managing the emerald ash borer infestation.
To date, about 2,000 affected parkway ash trees have been cut down in St. Charles, and proactive treatment has been applied to about 200 trees, Suhr said.
Since 2008, the city of Geneva has removed 2,200 of its 2,700 parkway ash trees because of the emerald ash borer.
“We are well on our way,” Geneva streets and fleets Superintendent Chris Bong said. “The City Council had declared the ash tree to be a nuisance tree, which allowed the city to remove them as necessary.”
Bong said the trees that are infested become weak and have to be removed.
“They are a liability and they are an eyesore,” he said. “They could fall. They could fall on a home or person or car.”
Bong said Geneva carefully monitors the condition of its ash trees.
“We look at the leaves,” Bong said. “If 50 percent of the tree canopy is gone or dead, we put it on the list to be removed.”
Batavia removed more than 500 parkway ash trees last year that were infested with the emerald ash borer.
“I think we have made a huge dent,” Batavia streets Superintendent Scott Haines said. “The majority of the large trees that are infested have been removed over the last few years.”
Batavia has not planted ash trees since fall 2003 because of the initial infestation reported in Michigan. The city has a 50/50 parkway tree program that allows residents to share in the cost of planting and replacing parkway trees. Seventy-five to 125 trees are planted every year through the program.
As a result of the Dutch elm disease, the city implemented a parkway tree planting program to diversify tree species to prevent it from happening again. The city of Geneva ceased the planting of parkway ash trees in 2002.
Suhr said St. Charles homeowners can help the process if they have ash trees on their property.
He advised them to work with a certified arborist to develop a plan of action for protecting their trees with treatment and removing those that cannot be treated.
How to spot emerald ash borer:
• A thinning tree canopy caused by nutrients and water that can't reach the top.
• Suckers or new young branches sprouting from the tree's trunk.
• Holes in the bark or branches from woodpeckers looking for emerald ash borers.