Battling the Emerald ash borer

An invasive ailment has been on the rise over the past few years. The Emerald Ash Borer, or EAB, is an invasive species of beetle that can prove lethal to all ash trees that grow in New York state.

“It’s taking bark off the trees. Limbs are falling for no reason, other than the ash borer.” said Dan Henley of Middleport, who has ash trees on his property being killed by the EAB. “It’s going to cost a lot of money, and I’m trying to figure out how to address the problem properly and quickly.”

The Emerald ash borer can be noticed as having a shiny emerald green body, with a red or purple abdomen. The insect was initially brought to the United States in shipping containers from China, Korea and Japan in the late ’90s, and has been active in New York state since 2009. They have been in Niagara County for approximately five years, and have either infested or killed two thirds of the ash tree population.

“This has been ongoing for more than five years,” John Farfaglia, an arborist from the Cornell Cooperative Extension, said. “Although in the last few years it’s become more evident to the average landowner when they’ve lost an unusual number of trees.”

Their activity can mostly be noticed in the summer months where an infested ash tree will have its leaves turn yellow or brown. Infestations can also be noticed through D-shaped exit holes in the tree’s bark. This is due to larva being laid inside the tree the previous year. Increased woodpecker activity is also a sign of an infestation. The EAB eats the cambium layer of the tree, which can lead to bark falling off, and revealing S-shaped larval galleries.

While the Emerald ash borer can prove to be fatal to ash trees over a span of two to four years, there are preventative measures that can be made to stop infestations before they happen, or even ones that are in progress. The pesticides Imidacloprid, or Emamectin Benzoate are able to work to prevent EAB infestations, and in some rarer cases stop active ones.

Emamectin Benzoate requires a licensed arborist to have it injected into a tree. The price is usually $10 per inch of the tree trunk’s diameter. This means that the price can go to about $200 per tree, but assuming that the tree had no infestation in the first place then the injection can offer 100% protection for approximately 3 years.

Imidacloprid can be purchased over the counter, and be administered by anyone. The price per tree can usually be around $25 or $30, but unlike Emamectin Benzoate, it would need to be done annually. This pesticide has an 80% success rate, which is lower compared to Emamectin Benzoate.

Treatment is expensive, and there are still risks of other diseases that could affect the ash trees by continued use of the pesticide. However the costs for removal of trees that have been killed by the Emerald Ash Borer can be much more expensive compared to treatment. Dead trees can also prove dangerous to be around, and can cause damages of their own. Insurance companies also may not cover damage caused by a tree that was infested by the EAB, usually due to the tree’s health being the responsibility of the owner.

Some local arborists have also claimed that treatment hasn’t always been effective, and that very little can be done to crack down on infestations beyond tree removal.

“I’ve seen in my time only a handful of trees be saved,” said Tom Poczciwinski, an arborist and owner of Treeman Tom LLC. “Most of the tree’s I’ve seen in Niagara County are already too far gone to save.”

Due to this some arborist services don’t even offer pesticide injections.

“Once it’s started, it’s almost impossible to stop,” said Bill Black, owner of Mohawk Tree Services. “And it’s pricey.”

Neither Treeman Tom, or Mohawk Tree Services offer pesticide treatments for the Emerald ash borer.

Since the Emerald ash borer only is able to fly half a mile once adulthood is reached, most infestations are spread due to the transportation of firewood. Due to this, the state Department of Conservation has restricted moving firewood 50 miles from its source. Only four counties in New York have not had any reported infestations from the Emerald ash borer; Essex, Hamilton, Lewis, and Washington counties.

If one finds sightings in any of these counties, the DEC has asked that photos, and location information be sent to them at foresthealth@dec.ny.gov, or to call them at 1-800-640-0652.

More information on the EAB and protection of ash trees can also be found on the New York DEC’s website.


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