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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."
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