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Canopy Conundrum

Invasive, exotic insects are a constant threat to the trees and forests of our state. The ornate, slim bodied Emerald Ash Borer beetle is one such insect. First discovered in Connecticut in 2012, over the past five and a half years, this unwelcome hitchhiker and its ravenous larvae have hit our state’s private properties, woodlands and urban forests hard.

The EAB, which is native to Asia, feed on ash trees almost exclusively. In Connecticut, there are three species of ash trees in danger – the white ash (Fraxinus americana), the green or red ash (F. pennsylvanica) and the black ash (F. nigra ). EAB adult insects begin emerging from within ash trees around the middle of June. The female starts laying her eggs on the bark of ash trees about two weeks later. Within seven to 10 days, the eggs hatch and the larvae move into the bark, to begin feeding on the phloem (inner bark) and cambium of the tree. Throughout each of its successive instars  (larval  growth stages),  the larva  continues to devour the phloem and cambium of the tree.

Coastal Connecticut arborist Mike Gaines, owner of CW Arborist has given careful thought in the face of  the EAB. The most important recommendation is to not act hastily.

With no current way of successfully and completely eradicating this pest, arborists and environmentalist are working towards slowing the spread of EABs. For Gaines, part of the solution is education.

“What we do know is that we are not going to save every Ash tree from the EAB, what we want to do is manage the situation, educate people and work to protect trees that make sense,” explains Gaines.

“The EABs cause an expedited spiral of decline after infestation which create serious safety issues to individuals and personal properties in urban settings,” says Gaines, who has achieved Board Certification from the International Society of Arboriculture. CW Arborists is a licensed Connecticut State Arborist company which holds pesticide applicator licenses in NY, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

“Prevention, prevention, prevention!” says Gaines.  He explains that one method to help limit the spread of EAB is to make sure to burn firewood where you cut it down, so EABs are not spread throughout the region. He also suggests that property owners survey, take notes and make a plan to remove sick and dying trees.

He proposes that people schedule an appointment with a licensed arborist (who can make an application of product that will protect ash trees from the larvae of EAB), and be prepared to ask a lot of questions about the trees on their own properties so they have a plan of action moving forward.

On average, an individual tree will die within two to three years of being infested and stands (groups) of trees will die within eight years of infestation. These deaths interrupt the natural cycle of nature because ash trees are home to a number of different moths and butterflies and the trees’ seeds act as a staple in the diets of birds, such as the wood duck and the purple finch, among others.

“What I have found effective is to discuss with homeowners the goals for their properties, the impact to the surrounding area, the interactions between their trees, shrubs, surrounding forests and wood lands, and to help them to responsibly manage the interface.”

Gaines adds, “I like to care for trees and help their owners understand what truly needs to be protected, preserved and treated. I use horticultural oils, fertilizer and/or IPM   (Integrated Pest Management) to accomplish these goals over time,” explains Gaines, “I help identify and understand nature in its setting;  the  plants and trees, insect and diseases  involved, what  to expect, what to consider and what to do to mitigate problems if they arise.”

For more information about the EAB, get in touch with Mike Gaines of CW Arborists and visit www.cwarborists.com.

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