The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

August 2, 2013

Emerald ash borer found in Fairfield


Iowa has an estimated 52 million rural ash trees. Another 3.1 million grow in urban settings. Emma Hanigan, the urban forest coordinator for the IDNR, said ash trees can make up as much as 15-20 percent of a community's tree population. That's a lot of cover at risk when the emerald ash borer moves into an area.

“If you lose 15 percent of your canopy, you're losing a lot of benefit to the community,” said Hanigan. She added that losses can be significant enough to impact property values.

Treatments can help protect ash trees, but there are catches. The trees need to be in good health, so a tree with advanced infestation probably isn't a good candidate. And they need to be small enough for the treatment to take hold; a huge ash tree probably can't be covered effectively.

Pruisner said treatment doesn't make much sense if you live more than 15 miles from where the emerald ash borer was discovered. Scam artists may take advantage of the announcement, so people need to be aware of who they're talking with.

“We may see a proliferation of companies that will knock on doors offering to treat ash trees. The reality is that the most effective treatment is in the spring,” Pruisner explained.

Since so much of the spread of the beetle appears linked to inadvertent transportation by humans, Hanigan said one of the best pieces of advice is simple. If you go camping, “buy and burn your firewood in that county.” On site is ideal. That's especially important as we move from summer into fall and more people will depend on fires to stay warm at campsites.

People can help by keeping a close eye on their trees. Feeley said woodpeckers are a good indicator that something is wrong. “Woodpecker flecking,” where woodpeckers remove bark from an area before digging into a tree, is easy to spot because it leaves a white patch behind. If branches with the flecking show signs of distress, especially toward the top of an ash tree, it's possible the tree is under attack from the beetle.

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