EAB: Fact or Fiction

EAB: Fact or Fiction

I'll probably show my age with this post, but I vividly remember several sleepless nights as a youngster after watching the movie Empire of the Ants. You might think the start of the movie is Joan Collins, but from a childhood perspective the stars are colossal insects wreaking havoc on their human neighbors.

Childhood nightmares of giant insects aside, there are real pests that wreak havoc on our landscapes, causing tremendous monetary loss-not to mention the emotional toll of losing a favorite tree.

If you live in the Midwestern U.S. or Canada, you've probably heard a good deal about the emerald ash borer - or EAB. In this spirit of a good science fiction movie, let's separate the real from the imaginary with this topic.

I'm here to help clear up a few EAB myths and more importantly, provide some advice on how to identify EAB and treat the trees in your landscape.

Let's start with the facts. EAB is an extremely aggressive beetle, native to Asia that has caused significant problems for North American urban forests and backyards. Since discovery, this invasive borer has destroyed millions of ash trees, devastating the tree canopy cover in many communities (Some estimates project $10.7 billion over the next 10 years).

When I travel in potentially infested areas, I often hear two questions from homeowners:

  1. How do I know if my trees are infested?
  2. What can I do about it?

Just like the movies, it's important to know your enemy. Really, how can you defeat an army of giant ants if you don't understand them? But I digress.

First, do you have an ash tree? If the answer is yes, does it show signs of "alien attack?"

eab damage eab exit holes eab pupa and larvae eab galleries
EAB damage EAB exit holes EAB pupa/larvae EAB galleries

Look for the following:

  • Striping of bark by woodpeckers searching for larvae
  • Chewing damage on foliage edges
  • ⅛ inch "D-shaped" holes chewed through the bark by emerging adults
  • S-shaped tunnels beneath the bark
  • Multiple trunk sprouts with heavy infestation

­­­­­­A keen eye is critical, particularly since proactive treatment is the best approach. If you need help, consider working with a pro. Two pairs of eyes - particularly if one belongs to an arborist - are often better than one.

So what treatment options are available?

According to expert, Jim Zwack, director of technical services at The Davey Institute, treatment decisions start with you.

"We are fortunate that since the discovery of EAB in North America the search for ways to protect ash trees has produced excellent results. Several products provide strong, consistent results that allow us to predictably bring ash trees through peak pest pressure with full, healthy canopies.

The decision about whether to protect an ash tree is highly personal, and not everyone will reach the same conclusion. Consider some of the following questions as you make your own decision:

  • How important is this tree to my landscape?
  • How quickly could I replace the benefits this tree provides?
  • How costly will this tree be to remove if it fails?"

Getting ahead of the issue will preserve your favorite trees and help you avoid an EAB nightmare!

  • The Davey Tree Doctor May 16, 2013 >Hi, Barbara. It’s not likely to be a worm, but tunneling of carpenter ants. Dead branches and ants are signs of wood decay in the tree. We recommend you have a qualified arborist examine the tree to determine the extent of the decay. This is typically a free service consultation and can give you further insight about the health of your tree, so you can find out what your options are and decide what you would like to do next for the tree. Let us know if you have any other questions. - The Davey Tree Doctor
  • Barbara May 10, 2013 >My Maple tree is getting a lot of dead branches it looks like there is a worm inside the dead branches can you help me.
  • The Tree Doctor September 14, 2012 >Hi, Penny! We're not aware of those traps being sold to individuals. In any case, they would merely indicate the presence of EAB - not provide control. We recommend you contact a professional arborist to see how close the nearest confirmed EAB site is to your location. If it’s within 25 kilometers, we suggest you begin treatment. However, insecticide options available in Canada are extremely limited. For instance only two materials are labeled for trunk injection, TreeAzin and Confidor. You may consider seeking professional assistance for treatment. Best of luck and let us know if you have any further questions.
  • Penny Wearne September 11, 2012 >Wondering about EAB... and the purple or green traps that might function like the japanese beetle pheremone traps... can I get some for our property? If not here in Ontario, can I purchase them in the US and bring home to Ontario? I have about 15 ask trees that I might like to protect with either injection or soil drench. My family arborist, Vic Plowman, has advised me to contact you folks first.
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