Lake James Manor

St. Louis County Removing Ash Trees

Posted in: Lake James Manor
Home >> News >> Emerald ash borer active in St. Louis County

Emerald ash borer active in St. Louis County

By: Jim Erickson

What experts knew was inevitable now has proven to be precisely that.

What experts knew was inevitable now has proven to be precisely that.

What experts knew was inevitable now has proven to be precisely that.

The emerald ash borer officially has been found in St. Louis County. The destructive pest is expected to continue its spread throughout the county, leaving a path of dead and dying ash trees in its wake.

The issue arose during a Ballwin Board of Aldermen budget work session Sept. 28 as city officials discussed projected costs of removing infected trees found on city rights-of-way.

Ash trees comprise about 25 percent of the city’s tree population, according to an inventory taken earlier this year.

Emerald ash borers are a species of Asian beetle that tunnels under the bark of ash trees, disrupting the flow of water and nutrients, eventually killing the tree.

The metallic, dark green beetles are about one inch long when fully developed. Larvae leave S-shaped tunnels under bark. Adults leave D-shaped exit holes in bark when they emerge. As their numbers grow, they cause more damage to a tree.

The non-native insect had been spotted in the Lake Saint Louis area of St. Charles County last year and forestry experts stated it was only a matter of time before the emerald ash borer infected St. Louis County and other areas.

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, St. Louis County Department of Transportation personnel spotted suspect trees in the Lindbergh-Scheutz Road area in August. The Missouri Department of Agriculture and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture subsequently confirmed the infestation.

Another infected area found near a dumpsite in North St. Louis may well predate the St. Louis County locations being spotted, according to Will Rein, Ballwin’s arborist.

Rein’s ash tree management plan calls for removing 772 trees that already are rated poor, critical or dead, even though not infected with the borers. Another 266 ash trees with trunks seven to 17 inches in diameter and rated in fair condition also would be cut down.

In addition, the plan recommends considering 729 ash trees with trunks larger than 12 inches as candidates for treatment to protect against EAB as the infestation spreads. That tactic would delay removal costs and allow new trees to become established before the ash canopy disappears.

Still another 179 ash trees would be considered for long-term treatment due to their condition ratings and benefits to the community.

As for the ash trees targeted for removal, Linda Bruer, Ballwin’s director of parks and recreation, said a voluntary cost-sharing program is being considered for the city and homeowners whose property adjoins rights-of-way where the ash street trees are removed.

Under such a program, the homeowner and city would split the estimated $200 cost for planting a new tree, she said, emphasizing that homeowners could choose whether or not to participate.

Rein said he anticipates marking ash trees early in 2016 if they are targeted for the first phase of removal. He added that replacement trees will be native species selected to meet the goal of diversity in the city’s plantings.

MDC foresters say homeowners will need to decide if they want to save a valued ash tree on their own property by beginning treatments next spring, or if they instead want to plant another tree species as an eventual replacement. In time, all untreated ash trees in an area harboring the emerald ash borer can be expected to die from the infestation, the experts say.


Millions of Ash Trees Are Dying, Creating Huge Headaches for Cities

Ash trees are a dominant species on American city streets, but an invasive beetle is killing them off.
Photo of public works employee Brian Fahnstrom dragging a limb from an ash tree to a wood chipper after the tree was removed from the front yard of a house.

In July, workers remove a tree from a front yard in Plainfield, Illinois, that was infested with the emerald ash borer beetle. Communities are now struggling to dispose of millions of infected trees.



KANSAS CITY, Missouri—Forester Kevin Lapointe remembers clearly the day he and his colleagues at the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department did their first autopsy on a dead ash tree. Under its peeling bark, they found S-shaped burrows running across every inch of the outer layer of wood. Looking closer, they discovered the killer: a slender green beetle smaller than a penny.


The emerald ash borer, or EAB, a native of East Asia, has already devastated entire ash populations in northern cities such as Detroit, where it first appeared in 2002. Since then, the insect has swept into 22 states across the country. In the summer of 2012 it reached the Kansas City metropolitan area.

There are seven billion ash trees in North America, and within the next few decades, the beetle could kill most of them—a die-off ten times bigger than the one caused by Dutch elm disease.

In big cities, where ash species account for up to a quarter of trees in public spaces, planners must consider the environmental consequences of the massive die-off—liability hazards, an increase in stormwater runoff, and the simple problem of disposing of millions of dead trees. And officials don't have time to waste.

Eight years after the initial discovery of the beetles in an area, about 50 percent of the ash population will die—all at once. The rest die within another two to three years. In the Kansas City metropolitan area, where Lapointe works, 6.4 million ashes are on track to die as early as 2015—unless they receive insecticide treatment.

Chad Tinkel, who inherited an EAB problem when he became the city arborist of Fort Wayne, Indiana, didn't have the luxury of early identification or a big city budget for prevention. Of the 18,000 ash trees that once shaded Fort Wayne's sidewalks and parking lots, only about 1,300 remain alive. Tinkel now speaks about EAB to municipalities across the country.

"If you know that it's coming, be proactive," he says. "Get your plan in place. Get your budget set. Too few decision-makers realize that trees are infrastructure—just like a city bench, just like a streetlight—and they pay back more than they cost to put in."

Photo of public works employee Brian Fahnstrom dragging a limb from an ash tree to a wood chipper after the tree was removed from the front yard of a house.

A native of East Asia that has now invaded 22 U.S. states, the adult emerald ash borer is about half an inch long.



Cut Them or Save Them?

A good first step is a tree inventory. Kansas City did that a decade ago, identifying the location and size of all its trees.

That helps foresters track trees that are about to die, though it doesn't solve the problem of what to do with all the wood. Burning the wood causes air pollution; dumping it in landfills take up space and releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

In Fort Wayne, Tinkel partnered with a local lumberyard to process the influx of dead trees. The city uses the profits to replace the ash trees. In the Northeast, companies such as New York Heartwoods that specialize in milling distressed trees are gaining traction in the market. A project in Ohio is making desks and cubbies out of urban hardwood.

After researching solutions like these, two private Kansas City businesses,Missouri Organic and Urban Lumber Company, entered a partnership with the city. They established drop-off sites for homeowners and arborists. Urban Lumber gets first dibs on wood that's usable for milling, and Missouri Organic turns the rest into mulch.

It sounds like good economic sense, but Deborah McCollough of Michigan State University is ambivalent about such measures. She says she's sat at conference tables made of beetle-killed ash: "I hate to even see that, because it means people have given up."

According to McCullough, insecticide research has improved since the early days of the EAB infestation, and in many cases today, treating trees with insecticide is cheaper than cutting them down.

Kansas City plans to treat the roots of about 12,000 trees on city property, spending about $80 a tree for protection that lasts up to three years. Once taken up by the roots, the insecticide travels up the trunk under the bark—which is exactly where the beetle larvae do their damage, feeding on the wood and boring tunnels that interrupt the flow of water and nutrients through the tree.

Since the insecticide has to be reapplied every few years, it may not be economical as a permanent solution. But by preventing all the ash trees from dying at once, it would at least buy the city some time to replace its canopy and give its local partners time to create markets for beetle-killed ash products.

At a total cost of nearly $100 million for the city, even a one-time application of insecticide is a costly investment. "You have to look at the environmental, economic, and political benefits of a live tree," Lapointe says. Tree-value calculators show that trees save millions of gallons of water from entering cities' storm-water systems.

Photo of public works employee Brian Fahnstrom dragging a limb from an ash tree to a wood chipper after the tree was removed from the front yard of a house.

A black ash tree in Newburg, Wisconsin, shows the typical curving galleries dug by larvae of the emerald ash borer as they feed on the wood.



Hopeful Signs

What's the future of ash trees in America? As EAB spreads across the country, says Mark Nelson, urban forestry supervisor for the Missouri Department of Conservation's Kansas City region, "the best we can hope is to slow it down."

Still, some scientists say, it's possible that ash trees won't have to go the way of the Dutch elm or American chestnut. "We will probably see in very vulnerable species of ash, their functional role in forest ecosystems will disappear," McCollough says. "That doesn't mean they will necessarily go extinct. Even where we've seen nearly 99 percent of overstory trees have been killed by EAB, seedlings are still growing and getting larger."

Other species, such as blue ash, are less vulnerable: 60 to 70 percent of them have survived in EAB-ridden areas. In addition, more predators are learning to eat the beetles, and Asian wasps that prey on EAB have been introduced to control the population. "Whether they can keep EAB back [until] ash trees can rebuild populations," says McCullough, "that's what we're not sure of yet."

In the void left by the vanished ashes, cities nationwide are planting more diverse species than ever before. Fort Wayne, for instance, has instituted a"Shading Our City" management plan that doesn't allow more than 10 percent of any tree species to be planted in one area. Tinkel wants his city's forest to be able to cope with future pests, blights, and climate change.

"You can't manage a biotic thing with a static plan," he says. "I don't want to be the person that sets people up for another infestation in the next generation."

Advertise Here!

Promote Your Business or Product for $10/mo


For just $10/mo you can promote your business or product directly to nearby residents. Buy 12 months and save 50%!