Emerald Ash Borer Invasion Rages on in Oak Park

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By Deb Quantock McCarey

Contributing reporter/Nature blogger

Try and get this Peter, Paul and Mary melody out of your head...

Where have all the Ash trees gone, long time passing?
Where have all the Ash trees gone, long time ago?

Must I go on?

Where have all the Ash trees gone?

Yes, I must.

Killed by Emerald Ash Borer beetles every one.
When will we ever learn?
Biodiversity is not just a trendy term.

I hope you get the point.

Recently, two more big, beautiful Ash trees  (Fraxinus species) were removed in the blink of an eye on my once tree-lined street in Oak Park. I understand that it's a result of the ongoing and terrible Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire (Coleoptera: Buprestidae) infestation, of course.

Knowing that doesn't make it easier in seeing this all over the Village.

EAB's rampage launched in southeast Michigan in 2002.  Over time it eventually took out all those Ash trees. 

Now, sources say the invasive wood boring beetle from Asia has spread into 15 states, arriving in Illinois on June 9 of 2006.

The insect was first discovered in Oak Park on July 28, 2008.

Hey, hey...shout out to the unlucky 700 block of North Lombard.  Their trees were first.

Then and now, the Village's response to the EAB infestation is to remove the failing Ash trees.

Recently, when I rang up VOP's new top tree guy, Rob Sproule, he explained to me how in Oak Park we now have a pretty diverse arbor of 18,744 trees, as over time new trees are being strategically planted.

However, at the onset of the EAB epidemic here, there were approximately 2,600 Ash trees.  The official count in the fall of 2014 came in at about 1,185 still standing.

And, that inventory doesn't account for the Ash trees being actively removed day in and day out in our neighborhoods.

Some quasi-good news:  Based on VOP's recent inventory results, it has been determined that it might be worth saving a small percentage in the Ash population, depending on the species, that is.

"In white ash, the symptoms seem to come in a bit slower, [then Green Ash] and the tree seems to tolerate  EAB better," Forester Rob says.  "So, if you have a White Ash, and it's a smaller size tree, it could be worth it to invest in a treatment program, if it is something you want to preserve.  The cost of treatment usually goes up with the size of the tree, so treating a smaller tree is more cost-effective than treating a larger tree."

However, as of this writing, Forester Rob says more than half of our Ash trees have been taken away.  And, more will follow, related to the those little green beetles.
"From our perspective, how we approach this is that every Ash tree, unless we know that it is actively being treated, has EAB," Sproule says. 

"The most common symptoms you are going to see is die-back in the top of the crown, because the insect usually attacks the top of the tree first," he says.  "It will start to get thinner, and die out.  So, when you see this new flush of growth lower down in the canopy -- usually not at the ground level --  that is the tree's attempted response to replace the dead tissue it lost higher up."

And, there is this:  "As the infestation gets heavier, you will actually start to see the bark flaking off, because you will start to get woodpecker activity on the tree, spots where woodpeckers are trying to pull away the bark so they can eat the EAB larvae that is under the bark," he says.

But, lovers of Ash trees, don't dismay.

Oh, who am I kidding.  DISMAY! 

"In Illinois, at this point where we are at, there are some products on the market that can control the insect, so you can control the infestation, as long as you continue to treat the tree.  But, as soon as you stop treating the tree, the infestation can start to come back," Sproule says.

How did we get here?  Let me count the ways.

"Way before my time, or before most of our times, is that when the Elm Disease came through, afterwards they did not realize the importance of diversifying the ecosystem.  So the thought was, well, we lost all these Elms, now lets replace them with Ash trees," he says.  "What is happening now, is the same thing that happened in the 50s and 60s when Dutch Elm Disease came through."

Still, what is a community of tree lovers -- and huggers such as myself -- to do?

Bid adieu to the beloved Ash, I guess as in Oak Park they most likely will become only saw dust in the wind.

If you are hell-bent on trying to save yours -- parkway or private -- give it a go, but be willing to cover the costs of the chemical treatments.

"If the tree is in relatively good condition, that means less than 50 percent canopy loss, they could look at doing treatment," Sproule says. "Four or five species of Ash trees are infected here, and the biggest problem is that after the insect attacks the tree, the symptoms typically appear 3 to 5 years into the infestation, so when you discover it, the tree already has significant damage."

Even so, do a little research first, then don't be shy to ring up Forester Rob at 708-358-5700 for some free private consulting on your Ash tree issue.

Debbie Downer signing off.

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Reader Comments

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Scott Concertman from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: March 10th, 2015 1:19 AM

Imidacloprid has been well proven NOT to cause Bee colony disorder. Several years ago in fact. Yes caution, Don't keep pollinating flowers growing around drenched trees. Properly applied, this short chained molecule'd stuff already starts breaking down when applied. And peaks uptake in tree by June. As soon as leaves fall, sunlight immediately breaks down. Yes arguments can be made, and they have. Since this issue was direly important to me, besides hours of peer review research papers, my own field studies through observation of my properly treated trees documenting the extended lives of all browsers helped me confidently conclude. Insecticides, including natural Neem I utilize, either acts like larvicide to EAB. And just like nicotine, its an appetite suppressant and they forget to eat. Out of the whole village, 15 tree owners at best are drenching. Rest inject like cities 96,000 saved Ash.

Scott Concertman from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: March 10th, 2015 12:57 AM

Anyone with questions about anything regarding this subject can contact me, Scottie Ashtree seed, community tree historian & certified Arborist who has been voluntarily protecting Frank Lloyd Wright, Jens Jensen landscape Ash trees, along with our regions oldest 250 year old Green Ash I have dubbed the great Dane after Jensen. Unfortunately with my six year 24/7 experience with this EAB caused extinction event, a great majority of Arborist & expert tree care companies rely on outdated information, not personal experience. As one myself easily treating the trees rather than just cutting them down, its been embarrassing to the trade. So much so that knowledgeable scientists pulled together to all sign public statement warning Arborist against continued misinformation to public. If you would like to know a lot more about this event unfolding in everyone's backyard, and denuting 75% of our woods, search this site 4 my past posts, and search Oak Park historic trees on Youtube & Flickr. PS: APRIL is drench application time, needed to be reapplied until danger from infestations passes locally by 2020, like already has in part of Mi. where EAB arrived, and already caused forever extinction of borers only food source, the locally evolved ancient American Ash tree, Keystone species of Chicagoland's ecosystem . Over 40 yrs area lost 660,000 Elms, since 2009 region lost 5.5 million! Minnesota has 5 billion so going up there this year to teach people how to treat their own large ash trees like I did here in OP. Imagine how unique ones we save today will become for future generations since Green has 300, and White Ash 600 yr lifespan. If beginning treatment this year, must have trunk injected until tree recovers enough for inexpensive drench use. The Extinction event will not be televised! Scott Carlini

Deb Quantock McCarey from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 17th, 2015 3:02 PM

@Question: Rob Sproule suggests you check this out: http://emeraldashborer.info/#sthash.9tfVuf1Y.dpbs Look for this article: Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Potential Side Effects of Systemic Insecticides Used To Control Emerald Ash Borer Jeffrey Hahn, Assistant Extension Entomologist, Department of Entomology, University of Minnesota Daniel A. Herms, Professor, Department of Entomology, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center,The Ohio State University Deborah G. McCullough, Professor, Department of Entomology and Department of Forestry, Michigan State University Here's a taste: "To control EAB, some products containing imidacloprid or dinotefuran are applied as a drench The invasive emerald ash borer has killed millions of ash trees in North America. directly to the surface of the soil or injected a few inches under the soil surface. Dinotefuran can also be applied by spraying the bark on the lower five feet of the trunk. Emamectin benzoate and specific formulations of imidacloprid are injected directly into the base of the tree trunk. Systemic insecticides are transported within the vascular system of the tree from the roots and trunk to the branches and leaves. This reduces hazards such as drift of pesticide to non-target sites and applicator exposure that can be associated with spraying trees with broad-spectrum insecticides, and has less impact on beneficial insects and other non-target organisms. Many products registered for control of EAB can be applied only by licensed applicators. In all cases, the law requires that anybody applying pesticides comply with instructions and restrictions on the label." Hope this helps.


Posted: February 14th, 2015 11:30 AM

Deb, Your writing was very clear; I am questioning the idea that village is okay with soil drenches and other pesticides being used on parkway land, especially since it the pesticide contributes to water pollution. I hope these issues are brought up with the people who want to treat the trees so that they understand the consequences, and there is new research out there too about how persistent neonics are. Thank you for your article.

Deb Quantock McCarey from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 14th, 2015 10:11 AM

@Question: Good point re: the toxicity of that chemical, and its far-reaching negative impact on pollinators and us. I am sorry if my writing did not make this clear: It is not the Village's policy to treat EAB infected Ash trees. They remove them. However, homeowners can elect to pursue saving an EAB infected Ash tree, at their cost, but it is preferred that they do this after checking with VOP's Forestry Dept. Rob, or one of his staff, will connect with them and provide a free consultation regarding the treatment process, its impacts, and possible outcomes.


Posted: February 14th, 2015 8:27 AM

If neonics are used, I am appalled that they are allowed on the parkway because of their solubility in water and persistence. The parkways are right near the gutters and storm drains. These are not benign substances at all--they are very harmful. What about other insects, beneficial ones, that use the trees? They too will be poisoned? What about the leaves that get put into the leaf piles? Will the neonic get picked up surrounding trees which flower and then poison the bees?


Posted: February 14th, 2015 8:23 AM

Neonicotinoids are the class of pesticides used for EAB usually. Can't believe the village allows the use of it on the trees on the parkway. Neonicotinoids may sound familiar because they are the ones partly responsible for the decline in bees. Using this insecticide is a short-sighted, ham-fisted approach to the problem. Another example about how we think everything is separate when everything is connected.

Don Nekrosius from Oak Park  

Posted: February 14th, 2015 8:06 AM

Under the notion of conservation there must be room for reasoned removal of a damaged specie. Here on our parkway, we lost two magnificent green ash to the EAB, and having suffered major house damage from a huge limb that fell on our house in a storm, their removal was bittersweet. The chestnut, the elm, and now the ash all fell victim to a pest. Pray that oak wilt and thousand canker disease of walnut and butternut stay away. Let the damaged ones go and welcome new additions to the village.

Deb Quantock McCarey from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 13th, 2015 5:13 PM

@ Question, what a great conversation starter. How the chemicals will affect the woodpeckers, I do not know right now. Please let me get back to you, or perhaps someone else in our community of gardeners can pipe in. In the meantime, here is a great source re: the role of woodpeckers in all this: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131218170816.htm. Again, Rob Sproule has indicated that he is happy to field any questions. He can be reached at 708-358-5700. And oops, earlier, I meant to respond to @ Something Missing Here.

Deb Quantock McCarey from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 13th, 2015 4:54 PM

@ Reader: Rob says: "People all over town have elected to hire an outside company to treat the Ash trees in front of their home, and that is being done with varying effectiveness. Anyone who wants to do that, we will allow it, and as long as they are in an active treatment program, we will not remove the tree. But, depending on the treatment they use, it usually needs to be applied every year, or every other year, and we encourage anyone who is going to pay money to treat the tree in front of their home, that they have us involved in the conversation. There are a few different methods of control, and they vary in their effectiveness. So, if you are going to spend the money, really investigate which chemicals work the best. The less expensive treatments are what they call a soil drench, where you apply a chemical in a liquid or granular form into the soil. It allows the tree to take up that material naturally. Those treatments tend not to be as effective as direct trunk injection, where they actually drill into the trunk of the tree and forcefully push the chemical into the vascular system of the tree. So, going with the cheapest option, may not be as effective in controlling the infestation as the more expensive treatment, so if you go with the cheaper one, you may end up losing the tree sooner because you are not getting an effective control with those soil drench treatments." The costs vary, and that is why Rob stresses that everyone who chooses to treat a failing Ash tree be in touch with him prior to and throughout the process. Hope this helps. Thanks for asking.


Posted: February 13th, 2015 4:33 PM

I can't answer the cost question, but the tree needs to be treated continually--he states that once you stop treating the tree, the borer will return. There's the additional risk if neonicotinoids are used to treat the tree. It's the risk we have with the continuous introduction of invasive species. whether done inadvertently or not.

Something Missing Here  

Posted: February 13th, 2015 3:00 PM

What is not explained is the cost of the treatment for the ash tress vs. the cost of removal ash trees. Is removal, and then the replacement tree, more cost effective? Does the treatment not work? does the treatment need to be administered more than once or annually? it would e great to have facts, wouldn't it? Can someone from the journal please update this article? but only want to make it an article...

Hawk Harrelson  

Posted: February 13th, 2015 2:02 PM

As I always told the Wimperoo, and now tell the Stone Pony, whenever I see a bat break, "It's always hard to find a good piece of Ash."


Posted: February 13th, 2015 1:01 PM

I wasn't asking about myself, but about woodpeckers and how they might be harmed. They are smaller, higher metabolisms, eat quite a bit. Would like to know what pesticide is being used on the trees.

Brian Slowiak from Westchester  

Posted: February 13th, 2015 12:54 PM

Because very,very very low doses of poison will not harm you. Radiation therapy comes to mind. Heard that apple seeds contain very very low doeses of cyanide and when consumed actually help the body. Don't know if it is true


Posted: February 13th, 2015 12:40 PM

If the tree is treated with a pesticide, how does it affect the woodpeckers if they eat EAB larvae who have ingested the pesticide?

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