Last Chance to Protect Your Ash Trees

If you own or manage ash trees and they haven’t already been killed off by the emerald ash borer (EAB), this year is your last chance to take proactive measures. Over 20 states in the US have been impacted, with tens of millions of ash trees lost, and all of West Virginia is under state and federal quarantine for movement of wood. Sadly, if you are in the eastern panhandle it is likely that your ash trees are already infested with EAB.

Given this reality, here are your management options:

  • Have your trees treated. It is probably too late for preventative treatments so talk to a certified arborist about injecting your trees with a ‘therapeutic’ product called Tree-age® (emamectin benzoate – not a neonicotinoid). There is a biologically derived (or ‘organic’) product called Tree-azin® that gets mixed reviews but is a greener option worth considering. Of course there is financial cost involved but many people find it well worth it when they consider the alternative.
  • Have select trees treated. If you have a woodlot or just too many trees to address, choose one or a handful of specimens to protect until EAB have wiped out all non-treated ash in the region and move on. The theory is that this will leave you a living ash tree legacy that can provide seed for later generations. Provincial foresters in Canada are experimenting with this in their managed forests and I find it an intriguing strategy.
  • Sell trees for timber. If EAB have not impacted the quality of wood, there may be some monetary value in having your ash trees harvested. At the very least they can serve as a source for firewood.
  • Have tree removed. If in a frequently used landscape (your backyard for instance?) and treatment is not an option, have the tree removed by a licensed and insured tree professional as it will soon pose a safety risk as a standing dead tree.
  • Do nothing. If in a natural area there is little harm in simply letting your ash trees succumb to EAB and eventually serve as organic matter for the forest floor. Just remember that in five years or less, these trees will be standing dead snags and can pose a hazard in some circumstances.

We have recently learned that EAB have also been attacking white fringe trees, a close relative of ash, and that our ubiquitous yet cherished black walnuts may be threatened by a new pest in the near future. Boy, oh, boy. One headache at a time, right?

For more information on EAB, visit this multi-agency website: http://www.emeraldashborer.info

The nearby Inwood office of West Virginia’s Division of Forestry can be reached at 304-229-2665.

Shawn Walker is owner of Trees 101, a consulting arborist business based in Shepherdstown. Website: http://www.trees101.net

Photo: EAB larval galleries under the bark of an infested ash tree in Shepherdstown’s Rumsey Park