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Don't Kiss Your Ash Goodbye

Team Blue Ox had the pleasure of attending this year's North Central Texas Urban Forestry Conference last week, where we learned a ton about that little green beetle on everyone's mind...the Emerald Ash Borer.

Agrilus planipennis, Emerald Ash Borer (EAB)

For those of you who haven't heard about EAB yet, we're honestly a little shocked. The experts at the conference boldly stated that "there has never been a more invasive foreign forestry arthropod than EAB." That's more than just a little frightening. EAB, a native buprestid of north-eastern Asia, feeds almost exclusively on ash wood, and has proven to be capable of destroying more than 99% of the ash trees in any location they colonize.

At the conference, we were enlightened about just what kind of ecological impact that could have on our nation, and it's not pretty. Did you know that 98 species of invertebrate herbivores are dependent upon ash trees for survival? At least nine species of hawk moths will go extinct if ash trees disappear; the mighty Hercules beetle could become endangered; and the beautiful Swallowtail butterfly's range will shrink and their population will probably suffer as a result.

In short, we can't stress enough how important it is for all of us to pay attention to what's going on and do our part to help. Especially now that Tarrant County is officially a colonized location of EAB and, as a result, has been quarantined by the Department of Agriculture.

How can you know if your ash is at risk?

While we can tell you what signs to look out for in your ash tree, we should say that if you live in or around Tarrant County--don't wait! The treatment to protect your ash trees from EAB is highly effective and low-risk. And the time to treat (early Spring) is almost upon us. So give your favorite arborist a call and get on their schedule for treatment even if your ash tree isn't showing signs yet, because once it does it may already be too late.

There are three signs that are very specific of EAB colonization in your trees.

  1. D-shaped holes no larger than 3mm in diameter, which are the exit and entry points of the larvae.

  2. S-shaped burrows under the bark. (But please don't start peeling the bark off your ash tree just to hunt for EAB, because you could be harming an otherwise healthy tree.)

  3. And the thinning and dying out of the top of the tree canopy followed by what is called epicormic branching, or the flush of new growth at the base of the tree, along the trunk, or in the lower canopy. Epicormic branching is what happens when a tree overcompensates after a sudden loss of resources (the death of the upper canopy).

That being said, what should you do if you notice any of these signs? The sad truth is you should probably have your ash tree removed and properly disposed of by a certified arborist. By the time you notice the signs in your ash, it's already been infested with EAB. Which means it could be treated, but it would likely be a greater benefit to our urban forest as a whole for it to be removed, eliminating the risk on the spot. Treating it might save it if the EAB haven't already done too much damage, but it would also give mature EAB an opportunity to move on to the next ash tree instead of killing the colony.

The risk of EAB spreading from tree to tree, community to community, is so great that some experts are even recommending having small and/or unhealthy ash trees preemptively removed and destroyed regardless of whether they are home to an EAB colony yet.

But we've got your ash covered

As we mentioned previously, if you have any ash trees on your property and you live in or near Tarrant county, your best bet is to act now and get scheduled for EAB treatment right away. The ideal time to treat is at the very beginning of spring when the EAB are no longer dormant, but before they start moving on to new trees.

Blue Ox's preferred treatment is an Emamectin Benzoate (EB) injection. Just one application can protect your ash for years to come. You may know that EB is a neonicitinoid, a chemical which has gotten a bad rap with many homeowners because of its toxicity to pollinators. However, ash trees are wind-pollinated, and since the EB is being injected directly into the tree instead of sprayed on or around it, there is extremely low risk of it harming any pollinators living or working nearby. Not to mention, injection uses significantly less EB than spraying, which means less chemical being introduced to the environment.

But even if you don't have any ash trees to worry about, you can do your part by spreading awareness to those who might. We encourage you to pass this message on to your neighbors, family and friends. We'll be doing everything we can to get in touch with those we know with ash trees and hope you'll do the same.

Let's not give in to these foreign invaders and kiss our ashes goodbye.

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