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Garden Diary: Emerald ash borer menaces NJ trees

In this article from the Newark Star-Ledger, Davey's Rick Close discusses what the discovery of EAB in the area means for the trees. 

By Valerie Sudol

Published: June 19, 2014

Just when you thought we’d made some headway on keeping our cities and suburbs green, along comes another unwelcome invader to threaten one of New Jersey’s favorite trees. The emerald ash borer has arrived and a fresh battle is on.

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It was only last year that entomologists declared victory over the Asian long horned beetle, a Chinese import that attacks maples, birch, poplars and London plane trees. More than 20,000 trees were felled over a dozen years in the four communities of Linden, Carteret, Rahway and Woodbridge to halt the beetle’s spread. The last live beetle was spotted a few years ago and eradication efforts were deemed effective.

In late May, the state Department of Agriculture confirmed that the ash borer had attacked a stand of ash trees at a commercial site in Somerset County. This pest first was identified in the US in 2002 in Michigan, a likely hitchhiker on wooden pallets used in commercial shipping. Since then it has spread to 22 states with infections radiating from the Great Lakes states like a ring of fire.

“Unfortunately, ash trees are not only native to the Northeast, but over the past several decades they have been a very popular landscape and street tree,” says Rick Close, district manager for Davey Tree Experts, Morris Plains. “Our ash trees already had a number of disease problems, so this makes them even more vulnerable to attack.”

The adult insects – an almost handsome, metallic green beetle – show up during the summer months to mate and reproduce, emerging from tree trunks through a typically D-shaped hole. These adults are difficult to spot as they feed on leaves high overhead, causing only minor damage to foliage.

It’s the larvae that hatch from eggs laid by the thousands in bark crevices that pose the serious threat. They bore their way through the tree’s vascular system – the network of “flow tubes” that carry nutrients and moisture absorbed by roots to the leaf canopy. Without this nutrient flow, the tree is deprived of the means to sustain itself.

“Generally you might not suspect anything until the upper third of the tree is defoliated and the bark starts to dry out and peel off,” says Close. “Once you see dead branches, you already have an issue.”

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