Some overlooked elements of EAB management and some common misconceptions

1) In Lincoln and other cities affected by EAB, the insect has been active for several years before it is detected!  Dissection of the first infected trees typically reveals EAB larvae tunneling in several annular rings (growth rings).  The insidiousness of this insect necessitates treatment of trees BEFORE damage is detected.  We now know that the best time to start protecting healthy, high value ash trees with professional techniques in Lincoln was by Spring 2017.

2) It takes TIME for insecticide treatments to circulate throughout the tree. If you wait till you have damage, it is TOO LATE to get the best results using the most economical, least invasive treatments, particularly if the decision to treat is made outside the springtime application window when the tree conducts insecticides most readily.

3) Local news stories about EAB overlook a distinction between the challenges that public officials face managing thousands of ash trees on public property, and the concern that 10% or less of Lincoln homeowners will have about an ash tree in their lawn.  Due to the enormous scale of this problem in terms of the number of trees, the high cost of effective insecticides, and the decade(s)-long persistence of the insect threat, the argument is strong that governmental bodies should not try to control EAB at all, and should instead focus their limited resources (budget) on removing ash trees on public property before or after they become hazardous, and replant or provide guidance in replacing the lost trees.  The development of a more elaborate approach to EAB management would probably have to start with the adoption of a very large increase in the City Forestry’s budget.  Public officials and the roughly 90% of Lincoln homeowners who do not have an ash tree on their property or adjacent to their property have no great purpose in being knowledgeable about long-term EAB treatment methods.  For this reason, neither public officials nor your friends and neighbors are a rigorous source of information about EAB treatments for ash trees on private property.  The city’s existing permit process that allows homeowners to “adopt” ash trees adjacent to their property at property owner expense makes sense within this context.

If you are among the several percent of Lincolnites who have a valuble ash tree, the information on this site is for YOU, and the impracticality of a municipality endeavoring to protect ALL ash trees for the duration of the threat should not be construed as a suggestion that you should eschew treatment of your high value ash tree.  News stories about EAB in Lincoln have thus far served to muddle the distinction between all ash trees on public property vs single high value homeowner trees.  A focus upon who doesn’t need to be concerned about EAB and which trees are not worthy of treatment displaces a dialogue about the best EAB management practices, resulting in misdirection and inaction among homeowners in these critical, early years of the threat.  An opportunity to act in advance will lapse when the unprotected majority of ash trees are infected, and our predicament is passed on to neighboring communities.

4) While it is true that chemicals used to control EAB are toxic to bees and butterflies, pollinating insects are not exposed to lawfully applied, professional-use insecticides labelled for EAB.  It would not be an acceptable trade-off to protect your ash tree if it meant compromising the bee and butterfly populations of Lincoln!  Click here for my analysis of this topic and my attitudes about pesticides and the planet in general, and click here for additional reading on the web regarding the misconception.

5) The public is receiving mixed signals about whether treatments for EAB are effective.  University research in the Great Lakes area has found that the best injection methods kill 100% of active EAB larvae present in the stems of medium size ash trees, and a single injection controls larvae at this rate for 4 years when maximum rates are used.  First arriving adult insects are killed in as little as 4 hours after feeding on the leaves of a treated tree, so that female EAB may not live to lay eggs on your tree’s bark which hatch as EAB larvae.   A reduced larvae hatch means fewer larvae boring holes in you ash tree’s bark to feed on the conductive tissue of your tree, for which the first few bites have been proven to be lethal.  This means a greatly diminished chance of loss of your ash tree from EAB, even when, according to studies, your property is surrounded by untreated, dying ash trees.  The skilled use of systemic insecticides incapacitates EAB at the major stages of it’s lifecycle.  Click here for studies.

Since EAB was first found in Michigan 18 years ago, treatment options have changed, drastically, for the better.  Some doubt about the efficacy of treatments originates from treatment strategies using less effective means of control prior to the emergence of emamectin benzoate as a treatment chemical.  Also, there is a precedent of starting “too late” in controlling EAB: many failed attempts that individuals or communities experienced involved trees that were weaker from EAB damage than suspected.  For a variety of practical reasons I am happy to discuss with you in person, I do not guarantee that I can protect your tree from long term loss to EAB, but I have spent many hours of researching this subject and I am personally convinced that my methods will succeed in Lincoln.

6) City of Lincoln municipal code requires that “for hire” tree services be performed by an arborist licensed by the City of Lincoln. State and Federal lawn requires that commerical pesticide applications be made by Applicators licensed by the State of Nebraska.  Ask to see your applicator’s licenses.  Following the law is a great first step towards providing high quality tree care.

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