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Discussion: Diseased ash trees

in: Bash; Bash > 2019-01-29

Jan 30, 2019 12:14 PM # 
We have about 6 diseased trees on our property. Looks like we’ll have plenty of firewood in a couple of years ( and I’ll have plenty of strength work once our tree guy does the chainsawing). What a pity for our gorgeous forests.
Jan 30, 2019 2:00 PM # 
Do you have a high percentage of ash trees in your forests? We've been dealing with the Emerald Ash Borer for 10-12 years down here in the 'States. Ash trees were a popular replacement for elms that died from the Dutch Elm Disease in the 1950's and '60's. Here we go again!

For really nice 'specimen' ash trees, it may be worth it to have them treated every couple of years...about $400/tree here. Not only do you preserve the 'street appeal' for your property, but you also save the cost of removing the dead trees.

I have been successful in saving some nice Green Ash with 24" caliper diameters, having a soil treatment applied during the dormant period. I'm sure you could do it for less yourself by purchasing the needed chemicals and injectors. Good luck!
Jan 30, 2019 2:40 PM # 
Thanks, yes, there are a lot of ash trees in the mixed forests around here. The ash borer has been marching north so in many places, it is illegal to transport firewood between jurisdictions. When the borers were found 10 km south of us a few years ago, the Conservation Authority foresters cut down all the healthy ash trees that could potentially fall on the main trail through Palgrave West. Now they have put up signs warning people not to use any of the side trails that they didn’t protect.

We consulted a forester about treatment several years ago but he said it didn’t have a high success rate, and there were so many ash trees around that it was essentially a lost cause. If we just had one or two ash trees, we might have tried it anyway but we have 10 acres with lots of ash trees, and our neighbours have many more. When we moved here 20 years ago, we still had the last elm tree on our property - sigh. Time to do some planting after we deal with the most hazardous trees in our yard. :(
Jan 30, 2019 5:55 PM # 
If your trees are definitely dead, cut them down. Don't wait. An ash tree dead for a few years is a dangerous ash tree. They weaken at the base to a point where it can't be taken down in sections because a Faller won't climb it.
Jan 30, 2019 7:24 PM # 
to quote Python- "Not dead yet". The bark is turning orange on the sunny side of our ash trees. So far, that's it, but our neighbours have some that are losing bark.
I guess we'll know a lot better once spring comes- no leaves, time to call Mr Arborist.
Jan 30, 2019 7:41 PM # 
Nuh uh, I'm calling Mr. Arborist today. These trees have no chance, as the arborist told me a few years ago. Good info, Trav - thanks. The Conservation Authority must have been thinking about that when they cut down all the healthy ashes a few years ago.
Jan 30, 2019 8:34 PM # 
OK, he cuts it, I'll haul and split it.
Jan 31, 2019 10:37 AM # 
Well according to the literature, ash trees CAN be protected. I've done so for at least 10-12 years. And you gotta admit that a soil or trunk application now would be a lot easier than felling, hauling and splitting....
Jan 31, 2019 6:27 PM # 
Since that is marketing literature for a company that offers the treatment service, they're more enthusiastic than the scientific literature in Ontario. Up here, the treatment is only recommended for "specimen" trees, typically urban trees or isolated trees forming part of someone's landscaping. Consumers are warned that the treatment may not work. It is most effective as a vaccine before infestation, which isn't our situation. (Infestation often exists for several years before external signs become obvious.) Because it is a systemic pesticide, it needs to flow through the entire tree to be effective, and the ash borers damage that system.

There are other considerations, e.g. the pesticide is moderately toxic to bees (considered a big improvement over earlier EAB treatments, which were highly toxic). And the only ashes we might have considered treating would be the ones closest to our house and thus near our shallow well, which is disconcerting.

The cost is several hundred dollars per year per tree, and in our neck of the woods, they recommend the treatment every two years. That level of annual cost is typically reserved for bike shopping! These trees would be surrounded by other infested trees on our land and in our neighbourhood, which can't improve their odds of surviving.

We love trees (our adventure racing team is the Tree Huggers) and we spent five figures over a decade to extend the life of a beautiful white pine in our back yard. But in this case, I think our money will be better invested in planting different species. We will use the dead ash for firewood. It's hard to estimate how many trees are on our land but the number is in the thousands. We'll just have to work to keep our forest a hardy mix.
Jan 31, 2019 10:19 PM # 
Agree completely - the treatments are expensive and they don't always work. Treatments are best used for street trees and isolated individuals that you want to protect in your yard, and not practical for whole forests.

If there are areas of your property that you don't go - it might be worth allowing some them to naturally die and fall. The dead wood and insects provide habitat and food for animals and fungi, etc. We've had a dead dogwood in our yard for years and I love to see the woodpeckers (but I also recognize that it's not going to fall on my house or skiers).

I saw a report from NPR today that the severe cold may slow the spread of the EAB due to the larvae being killed by the cold temperatures. The article sounded super optimistic but I suspect it's just a short term setback.

I have a couple of students who followed the senescence of the ash trees on our campus. It does take a few years for them to die, typically.
Jan 31, 2019 11:27 PM # 
Also, ash trees aren't the longest-lived tree species in any case. Unfortunately they are the majority of the largish trees in our backyard, and we have had to have several of them removed over the last few years because they were losing branches at a worrisome rate in the vicinity of the house. I think that on the average the population in our yard isn't much more than 100 years old, and my understanding is that very few ash trees make it to 200. In our case, it isn't EAB that is killing them off--there have been just a few of them trapped on the edges of our county thus far, and none particularly near us. The trees have clearly been declining over a period of more than ten years, so some other cause or causes must be in effect. Still it is a shame, as they are pretty trees, though maintaining their leaves for a smaller number of months each year than just about anything else around. At least a bunch of the dead-to-nearly-dead trees along the creek at the back of our yard keep a goodly population of woodpeckers happily working at the insects, and will probably continue to do so for a good many years yet!
Feb 1, 2019 2:22 AM # 
The arborist says that without even looking, he can almost guarantee that ash trees on our property would be infested by now. He said that if less than 1/3 of the tree is dead, the treatment is often effective if it's repeated as needed. He can do it but doesn't recommend it for us. If there is an individual tree we particularly care about, we can treat it but he pointed out that we live in a forest so it's probably better to just accept it, move on and encourage biodiversity.

I learned something new. He said there is no restriction on transporting dead ash as firewood because the government has basically given up on it. Emerald ash borers can travel 25 km so there's no practical way to stop them. Asian long-horned beetles can only travel 5 km so it's worth trying to limit their range, thus firewood can't be moved out of areas that have (or might have) them.

@Abizeleth, yes, we do keep some dead trees and logs around to provide habitat and nutrients. We also haul our Christmas tree out there every year to make things even more comfortable for the critters.
Feb 1, 2019 6:40 AM # 
@Eldersmith, it sounds like you have a lovely yard.
Feb 1, 2019 6:05 PM # 
FYI, here's the MPR article, which is from 2014, so one might think that the answer would be known by now...
Feb 1, 2019 10:02 PM # 
Here's a bleaker and probably more accurate version:
Feb 2, 2019 1:35 AM # 
Sounds like it might buy us a little time but not too much. The first article you shared has been floating around Facebook for a few days; I didn't realize it was from 2014! It inspired me to look into how cold it would have to be to kill black legged ticks, which I hate even more. Unfortunately, they'll probably do just fine. :(
Feb 2, 2019 1:50 AM # 
Yeah my understanding is to kill tick larvae you need the ground to freeze, which usually requires a lack of snow cover or super cold temps.
Feb 2, 2019 2:15 AM # 
Stooooopid ticks.

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