EATON — Preble County has lost hundreds of trees to the emerald ash borer beetle, and continues to battle the pest while working to replace the dead and infested trees that have fallen victim.
The jewel green insect is native to Russia, northern China, Japan, and Korea, where it dates at least as far back as the mid-19th century. It is believed to have traveled to the U.S. in wood packing material from Asia, and was discovered Stateside in 2002 in southeastern Michigan. It was identified in Ohio the following year, near Toledo. The epidemic has spread throughout most of Ohio, including Dayton, Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, and the Wayne National Forest. EAB reached Eaton in 2014. By 2015, there were several dead and infested trees in the area.
“It was a safety concern,” said Eaton city manager Brad Collins. “We worked with a company called Forest Resource Consultants, and the owner, Mark Goeke, helped us come up with a plan to get our area cleaned up. We removed a little over 150 trees from our parks last fall. Most of the trees were dead or in such bad shape that they were of no use, so our staff had a lot of work removing the tops of the trees, removing the stumps, everything. From this point, we should be able to maintain things with our staff.”
The area is not completely free of EAB, nor ash specimens; there are still some trees in Fort St. Clair bearing holes and spray painted with the letter X to indicate infestation.
EAB kills ash trees within three to five years of contact; tens of millions of trees in America have been lost. The adult ash borer is 1/2 inch long and 1/8 inch wide. They fly from mid-May to September, and spend the remainder of the year incubating larvae beneath the bark. The insect digs sepentine tunnels, visually similar to ant farm paths, through the entire interior of the tree body, destroying the channels through which water and nutrients pass to different parts of the tree, effectively hollowing the tree and starving it out until it dies.
Eaton is not the only part of Preble County affected; Lewisburg has been hit so hard that village manager Jeff Sewert has said the village council is researching to learn if government grants are available for removal and replacement of trees.
“Some of the trees we took down still had lumber value to them,” Collins said of Eaton, “so we sold some of them, and that got us about $7,000, which we used toward removal of other trees and purchase of new ones. We’ve been very fortunate; Neaton Auto Products gifted us with 30 sequoia cherry trees. We also worked with Eaton Rotary, which gave us a $4,000 grant toward replacing trees at Fort St. Clair. Fitzwater Tree and Lawn Care also donated a tree at Seven Mile Park for Arbor Day.”
Treatment options are available for EAB infestation, but none are a direct cure, and come at a cost to taxpayers Collins estimates would amount to tens of thousands of dollars.
“We’ve got the majority down, though,” he said, “so now, we can deal with it as it comes up.”
To learn more about infestation, treatment, or removal of ash trees, visit the Ohio State University Cooperative Extension Program’s EAB website at ashalert.osu.edu, or visit emeraldashborer.info. Be aware that pesticide regulations differ from state to state; homeowners considering pesticide use should contact the OSU extension program’s regional office at 937-456-8174, or the Ohio Department of Agriculture at 614-728-6201.
For questions about moving ash logs or lumber out of state, where laws may be different due to prevention efforts, contact the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service at 614-322-4700.
Reach Duante Beddingfield at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @duanteb_RH.