Oak Park not eyeing alternative ways to fight ash borer

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By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

A little Asian beetle has been on a rampage through Oak Park, laying eggs in hundreds of local ash trees and forcing the village to tear down more than 250 of them.

Some communities are experimenting with alternative ways to fight the bug — such as releasing wasps, or putting a chemical in the soil. But Oak Park is likely sticking to tearing down trees for the near future.

The emerald ash borer, first discovered in Oak Park three years ago, is just too widespread at this point, according to Village Forester Jim Semelka. And some of the methods being tested on the beetle are unproven, he added.

"It really hasn't been shown, in my opinion, that any of these treatments are effective over the long haul," Semelka said. "So we're just going to remove them as they succumb to it, and go back with a much more diverse [tree] species population."

In February, Oak Park finished taking down about 265 ash trees from public parkways, leaving the village with 2,300 remaining. Earlier this year, Semelka said it was possible that the community's entire ash tree population would eventually be wiped out.

Oak Park received a $30,000 grant from the federal government in March to pay for about 100 trees to replace those lost to the emerald ash borer.

Michigan researchers have tried releasing parasitic wasps that kill emerald ash borers in Chicago and Evanston as an alternative way to battle the beetle. Meanwhile, in other places, people have used a "soil drench," dropping into the ground a chemical that's absorbed by a tree's roots, making the plant inedible for the ash borer's larvae.

Earlier this year, the Coalition for Urban Ash Tree Conservation released a statement urging communities to conserve ash trees as a way to manage outbreaks of the beetle.

But Semelka said the methods are unproven and some, such as a soil drench, require reapplication every year. The village doesn't have the funds to apply such chemicals to 2,300 trees, nor the manpower.

Oak Park is, however, open to residents testing out those methods themselves, and asks that residents inform the village first. He's had about half a dozen requests thus far.

Semelka is also open to trying wasps, though no one has asked him at this point.

Oak Park plans to seek bids later this year to have another round of ash trees uprooted in early 2012, and he expects the number taken down to be "north of 300."

Reader Comments

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Posted: July 17th, 2011 8:29 AM

First of all the grant was to buy trees, not plant. Secondly, when buying 100 trees it is necassary to go direct to the farm, not a retailer. Everyte the tree is touched, there is mark up. Bottom line $300 for a tree is too much. Argue the cost all you wnt; it is still too much.

epic lulz  

Posted: July 17th, 2011 3:18 AM

That's a reasonable price for planting 100 trees. If you have a better source, provide it.


Posted: July 16th, 2011 2:41 PM

You won't get my vote for forester Chris. Trees.com, really? Let's hope our village doesn't get on the internet to buy trees.

Chris Goode from Oak Park  

Posted: July 14th, 2011 9:46 AM

$30,000 for 100 trees is $300 per tree. Checking prices at Itrees.com that looks about the average price for one of their trees. For example, a three inch Hackberry delivered with no installation and no warranty is $350. A two inch caliper Autumn Blaze Maple is $250 and a three inch is $350. If we want larger caliper trees or if we want them planted and warranteed for a year or two that costs even more ($150 for a two year warranty). So this doesn't look like a bad deal to me.

Chris Carrier  

Posted: July 14th, 2011 9:38 AM

This seems an embarassing, short-sited reaction. Claiming a method of prevention is unproven and then just tearing all the trees down just sounds lazy. What happens when there are no ash trees left and the African Oak Borer comes along. Is the solution seriously to remove all our trees?


Posted: July 14th, 2011 7:10 AM

$30,000 for 100 tress!? Who's running this show; Ben Dover?


Posted: July 13th, 2011 3:16 PM

Regions in hard-hit Michigan have treated ashes standing untouched surrounded by stumps of infested & lost trees. Insecticide injections last 2 to 3 years and cost is less than removal of mature tree & replacement with sapling. Sorry situation when village has grant money to remove trees but won't spend a dime on saving mature trees. Recommend along with replacement trees they get professional arborist as new forester.


Posted: July 13th, 2011 1:03 PM

"Treatment is uproven"? Then why did a coalition of the researchers who evaluate the efficacy of treatment say that it DOES work? Read the consensus document cited by the previous poster. Treatment is PROVEN to work. And why does it have to be treatment or removal? Why not some of both, which is what the coalition endores? Oak Park is making a BAD decision that can not be undone once the trees are cut down.

Treatment works from Naperville  

Posted: July 13th, 2011 8:31 AM

Commercial arborists know that treatment is proven and reliable. They are protecting landscape ash across the Chicago region. Preventive treatment is better than "rescue" treatments. It will take DECADES for a replacement tree to regain the ecosystem value lost by removal of a single 20" ash. http://www.emeraldashborer.info/files/conserve_ash.pdf http://www.on-line-seminars.com/index.php?p=1_33_Archive-38#EAB Management in Urban Areas

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