By Alice E. Gerard
The emerald ash borer now has a very strong hold in Western New York, said Sharon Bachman of the Erie County Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Erie County Emerald Ash Borer Task Force.
The emerald ash borer was first detected in Erie County in 2011. It was found in Lancaster and in Lackawanna.
"A volunteer discovered that the trees in the park surrounding the Erie County Botanical Gardens were infested," Bachman said.
Last summer, nearly 200 ash trees, most likely infested, were cut down in Cheektowaga town parks. Two years ago, evidence of the emerald ash borer was discovered in Grand Island, near the Nike Base and along West River Road, north of Bedell Road. The emerald ash borer is estimated to kill approximately 35 percent of the Island's trees are ash trees.
To better inform Island residents of their options, the Grand Island Conservation Advisory Board will sponsor a presentation on the emerald ash borer at 7 p.m., May 3, at the auditorium in the Veronica Connor Middle School. The speakers will be Bachman and Patrick Marren, a forester with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. All are invited to attend.
According to Diane Evans, chairperson of the Conservation Advisory Board, "The Conservation Advisory Board is offering this seminar because we are concerned about the many mature ash trees on Grand Island. They are along our roadways, in our parks and back yards, and they even make up the grove of trees outside of Town Hall. Because of the spread of the emerald ash borer, an invasive insect, we want our residents and town officials to be aware of options for addressing this blight. The infested trees will eventually die and may pose a safety concern. Our two speakers have years of experience dealing with this issue in Western New York. We hope that attendees will take away an understanding of the problem, as well as ideas of how to respond to it."
Marren said that his presentation will focus on the biology of the emerald ash borer. He will describe the signs and symptoms of emerald ash borer infestation. "I will explain to people how to recognize trees infested with the emerald ash borer." He will also cover treatment and management options for trees, both before and after an infestation is observed.
According to Marren, ash trees occupy swampy places, such as Grand Island. "They grow really well in wetlands. They are perfectly suited for these conditions."
There are several ways of discovering the presence of the emerald ash borer. One way is to set traps in trees. If emerald ash borers had moved into an area, the insects could be found in purple traps that, until a few years ago, could be "seen everywhere," Bachman said. Federal funding for the trapping program has since ended. "We know that the emerald ash borer is in New York state. There is no need to do that monitoring," Bachman said.
Other than checking traps, it is possible to catch an infestation in its earliest stages, especially in suburban or in rural areas, Bachman explained. "Woodpeckers go after the (emerald ash borer) larva in the tree. You'll see a little bark stripped off and a small hole where the birds have been pecking," Bachman said. In larger cities, such as Buffalo, however, woodpeckers are less likely to be present. "Woodpeckers could be uncomfortable finding nesting in the city."
Adult emerald ash borers are considered to be harmless. It is when the insects are in their larval state that they are considered to be a menace. They get under the bark and feed on the living tissue. This kills the tree.
Before trees are infested, they can be protected by being given an injection of an insecticide that kills the larvae. "You have to be educated," Bachman said. "There are good products that are effective against the insects." If homeowners have a favorite tree that they want to be saved, they can save that tree. The insecticide is "like a vaccine for the tree." Before having the tree injected, the homeowner needs to "understand the health of the tree now because, if the tree is not healthy, the treatment will not work. Sometimes, the infestation has taken its toll, and the tree cannot be saved." Unsalvageable trees should be removed, Bachman said.
When the tree dies, Bachman said, "It comes apart in big chunks and can pose a danger to power lines, cars, houses, and people. We don't want that to happen. We've heard stories from the Midwest about people being hurt."
The emerald ash borer is expected to have a very destructive effect on Grand Island, especially on "the beautiful ash trees of Beaver Island," Bachman said.
"We will lose the vast majority of ash trees, on the Island and in New York state," Marren said. "This really will impact a lot of trees and people. They will lose trees that offer them shade and beauty and enjoyment of the outdoors."
Marren said that he is hoping for a good turnout at the May 3 presentation.
"We are going to have a lot of dead and dying trees. What is going to happen? I am thinking of the legacy of the trees. Can we do something creative with the wood? This is not an easy question, but it is important," Bachman said.