Thursday, April 15, 2010

Emerald Ash Borer Confirmed in Belvidere

By Betsy Lopez Fritscher
Posted Apr 15, 2010 @ 12:23 AM
Last update Apr 15, 2010 @ 07:28 AM
Illinois Department of Agriculture officials confirmed to city officials last week the presence of the emerald ash borer in Boone County, and now say the bugs may have infested a tree more than four years ago.

The infected tree, which will be cut down this summer, contained D-shaped exit holes, where the bugs exited after living off the tree’s nutrients.

“We found it when the symptoms were showing,” said Paul Deizman, program manager for the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s emerald ash borer program.

It’s uncertain how many trees may be infected locally, but area property owners should assume that all ash trees in the county are infected, he said.

“Plan for the death of your tree,” he said. “The (bugs multiply) tenfold every year — it’s like exponential growth. In 10 years, they can go from 1,000 to 1 million bugs.”

Marshall Newhouse, a Boone County Board member, believes the county was prepared for the news after working with the University of Illinois Boone County Extension office and its master gardeners since January 2009, to inventory the county’s ash trees.

“That has allowed us to begin strategizing while a lot of other counties have not been able to do that yet,” he said.

The inventory will continue in public rights of way until all ash trees along county and township roads have been identified, said Karen Durtschi of the University of Illinois-Boone County Extension office.

More than 2,400 ash trees have been identified in the county to date, not including the city of Belvidere and one remaining township. Deizman said for every public tree, typically, there is another one in a private area — meaning that more than 4,000 infected ash trees could be in Boone County.

While municipalities and the county at large are grappling with how widespread the problem is, experts say what is done in the months to come will be critical. Trees can be treated, but Deizman said that isn’t always a perfect solution.

“It’s like chemotherapy,” he said. “There’s a risk that the treatment will fail ... but you need to ask yourself if you have the money. It’s hard for landowners to gauge the risk of treatment and that there’s no guarantees. You don’t want to wait until your tree shows symptoms if you opt for treatment.”

Belvidere Public Works Director Craig Lawler said the city is working with the local extension office and solutions will likely be identified by aldermen once an inventory is done. In the meantime, Lawler’s department will handle spring branch pickup in local neighborhoods by not mixing branches identified as ash.

“We’re going to try to take some extra precautions to segregate that,” he said.

Lawler himself has three young ash trees in his yard. “They’re nice little trees. I hate to lose them, but I know eventually I will.”

The county’s roads committee is tackling the dilemma and the county’s engineer has been alerted to get rid of small ash trees that county equipment can be used on, Newhouse said.

“We are going to be taking no steps to save any ash tree,” Newhouse said. “We’ll be looking at different scenarios to make this economically painless. I take a rather hard view on this and believe there are no ash species that can withstand this ash borer.”


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