Ash tree photo/Wikipedia

Ash tree photo/Wikipedia

With reports this week of Emerald Ash Borer infestations in two more Iowa counties, it’s only a matter of time before the invasive pest wreaks havoc throughout the state.

After hearing the latest news, a friend in northeast Cedar Rapids asked what she should do about her front-yard ash tree. Linn County has yet to report an infestation, but she wondered if it made sense to take the tree down now, or to wait for the inevitable, when the tree will be larger and potentially cost more to remove. Undoubtedly, many other Iowans are wondering the same.

Marion-based Trees Forever has been on the front lines in providing information about Emerald Ash Borer, as well as other threats to Midwestern trees. The group’s Patty Petersen said while each homeowner’s situation is different, in general, she advocates for allowing healthy trees to grow. Symptoms of an infested ash tree include thinning or dying branches at the top of the tree; suckers halfway up the trunk; S-shaped feeding galleries under dead bark and D-shaped exit holes.

“I really want to stress the importance of keeping healthy trees standing,” Petersen said. “Even if we get an extra five years of life from that tree or 10 years, it is multiplied by the millions of other ash in the state that provide value every day they stand.”

Petersen said the cost of removal varies by several factors, including size,  location, the number of trees being removed, experience of the arborist and what the job involves, such as clean up and stump grinding. When the time comes, perhaps a neighborhood could contract together to get a lower cost, she said.

One factor that could make a difference in the cost of removal, Petersen added, is whether or not the tree is alive. If the tree is dead, the factor of having a more brittle tree adds to the mix, and if in a hurry to remove it, a homeowner might rush in without getting multiple bids.

Petersen said preventive treatments exist for healthy trees, but the cost varies by product, the size of the tree and other factors.  The cost of treatment could outweigh the cost of removal when you calculate the value of a living tree in terms of shading a home,  increasing property value, reducing heating costs and more. Homeowners within 15 miles of an infestation can consider treating their ash trees, which should take place in early spring to be effective.

One person told Petersen that after a shade tree fell in a storm, that person’s utility bill went up $50 per month because of the loss of the tree.  “If we applied this to treatment, then yes, it would be money ahead to treat a tree rather than spend $1,000 for removal,” Petersen said, citing an estimated cost of removing a large tree. “Many factors go into evaluating if a tree is a good candidate for treatments.” She cautioned against overuse of the products, however, as the treatments are pesticides that potentially could affect bees and other beneficial insects.

If space allows, another option is to plant a tree and allow it to grow while waiting to see what happens with the ash tree. My friend doesn’t have room to plant another tree, but Petersen recommended to look outside the box – or the yard – to decide the best tree placement. She noted that sometimes the prime placement to offer shade for your house is in your neighbor’s yard. Neighbors can cooperate to decide where a new tree might be planted and how to share in the costs.

Find more information about Emerald Ash Borer on the Trees Forever website.

State agencies this week released the following information about the latest Emerald Ash Borer infestations in Wapello and Bremer counties:

Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) has been positively identified in a residential tree in Eddyville in Wapello County, and trees in the public right-of-way in Waverly in Bremer County on February 12, 2014. EAB kills all ash tree species and is considered to be one of the most destructive tree pests ever seen in North America.

The EAB infestation in Eddyville was found by a citizen who reported suspect ash trees to an Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) regional forester. With the assistance of the Iowa EAB Team, larvae were found, and positively identified by federal identifiers as EAB.

A certified arborist hired by the City of Waverly to do a tree inventory discovered larvae in declining ash trees along two city streets. The larvae were positively identified by federal identifiers as EAB.

A statewide quarantine restricting the movement of hardwood firewood, ash logs, wood chips and ash tree nursery stock out of Iowa into non-quarantined areas of other states was issued on Feb. 4, 2014.

“The winter months provide a unobstructed view of the condition of the branches and main stem of ash trees, allowing for a clear view of woodpecker activity and insect damage on the trees,” said State Entomologist Robin Pruisner of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. “I wouldn’t be surprised if more infestations are found in Iowa before we shake the final snowfall from our boots and trees leaf out this spring.”

The Iowa EAB Team provides EAB diagnostic assistance to landowners and includes officials from Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS), Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service and the USDA Forest Service.

The Iowa EAB Team strongly cautions Iowans not to transport firewood across county or state lines, since the movement of firewood throughout Iowa or to other states poses the greatest threat to quickly spread EAB even further. Most EAB infestations in the United States have been started by people unknowingly moving infested firewood, nursery plants or sawmill logs. The adult beetle also can fly short distances, approximately 2 to 5 miles.

Contact Iowa EAB Team members to have suspicious looking trees checked. The State of Iowa will continue to track the movement of EAB on a county-by-county basis. Before a county can be officially recognized as infested, an EAB must be collected and verified by USDA entomologists.

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