The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

May 2, 2014

Ottumwa's ash trees could be doomed

OTTUMWA — Emerald Ash Borer is continuing to move around Iowa and the rest of the United States, and Ottumwa has finally fallen victim to the bug.

“The Emerald Ash Borer has been found in places around Ottumwa,” said Gene Rathje, Ottumwa’s Park Department director.

According to Rathje, the Park Department has been getting calls from residents around the city with concern that EAB is living in their ash trees, and several of them have now been identified with being infested.

The reason EAB is getting so much attention is because it is always fatal to ash trees that are left untreated, and the treatment for EAB is costly and can be dangerous to other trees and insects.

The larval stage is when EAB is most dangerous. Once the larvae start to grow and search for food, they feed on the nutrient vessels running through the tree and successfully drain the tree’s water and nutrient supplies.

Really the only way to keep an ash tree alive while it is infested with EAB is to inject them with insecticides. However, that has to be done routinely for the rest of the tree’s life, which can obviously get a little expensive.

“They [insecticides] aren’t very cost effective to save the tree,” Rathje said.

Also, the insecticides are placed at the roots of the trees, and runoff from rain can take the insecticides to different places where they shouldn’t be and could be dangerous for other insects.

The best solution when there is an ash tree with EAB, according to Rathje, is to just wait for the tree’s health to decline and replace it.

Now that EAB has been positively identified within Ottumwa, the next step is to educate the community. Rathje said they will be having seminars in the near future to help teach Ottumwans what to look for and how to identify ash trees. Then they will start the process of treating or removing infected trees.

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