Emerald ash borer epidemic threatens Ohio trees
by Nick McLain
The emerald ash borer, a beetle no more than half an inch long, is poised to decimate ash trees in the Columbus, Ohio, region in the next few years, experts say, and homeowners and local officials are scrambling to address the problem.
"It's an epidemic," says Kevin Masters, a highly rated certified arborist in Columbus. "If these ash trees are not treated, they'll all die within five to 10 years."
EABs starve ash trees of nutrients, causing them to become brittle, says Chris Ahlum of highly rated Ahlum & Arbor Tree Preservation in Hilliard, Ohio. Signs of infestation are dead branches in the upper canopy, D-shaped emergence holes and S-shaped bark markings.
Masters has treated approximately 600 ash trees with insecticide in the last two years, and the Ohio Department of Agriculture estimates there are 254 million ash trees in the state.
"It's not one of those things where you want to wait until it shows signs of EAB infestation, because the damage is already done," Masters says. "The best treatment is preventative. Once it's infested, there are no guarantees it will work."
Insecticides used for treatment include Tree-age, which is injected once every two years into the tree's base and costs $12 per diameter inch. Another option is Xytect. It is injected into soil under the tree once a year and costs $6 per diameter inch.
Angie's List member Dianne Goss says she pays $350 a year to treat two large ash trees in front of her home in Upper Arlington, Ohio.
"It's worth every penny to me," she says. "With the afternoon sun beating down from the west, the trees provide shade over my house. And I think these big, beautiful trees add to the curb appeal and value of my home."
For homeowners who choose the treatment option, Masters recommends it continue indefinitely until the EAB threat diminishes.
Steve Cothrel, UA superintendent of parks and forestry, says the city may condemn and remove dead ash trees on private property that are in danger of falling, with the owner billed 150 percent of the cost, as an added incentive to do it themselves.
Removing an EAB-infested tree can cost $400 to $1,800, depending on its size.
"Cutting down a large tree is expensive, so if you're going to be in a house for five or more years, it's cheaper to treat than remove," Masters says.
Angie's List member Joseph Luthman of Dublin, Ohio, elected to pay $550 to remove two large ash trees in his backyard. "They were not yet infested, but with the ash borer thing coming, I figured, why put up with it another year or two?" he says.
Ohio State University professor Dan Herms says removal has been the preferred option for Columbus and other municipalities facing dwindling budgets and ash tree inventories numbering in the thousands. Columbus forester Jack Low, whose city has removed 400 ash trees this year, says residents who don't remove dying ash trees in public rights of way will have them removed by the city, with the cost assessed as a tax lien on the property.