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EAB: Fact or Fiction

March 29, 2011
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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!

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