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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Emeral Ash Borer

Many Michigan land owners have had trouble with the emeral ash borer; espcially when it comes to their ash trees.  Personally, I know that my parents have lost some ash trees to these insects. 

After you are done reading perhaps you will tell us of your problems that you have had with these insects and/or solutions to saving your trees.  Comments are welcome.

The outbreak of emerald ash borer (EAB), an invasive, exotic insect, has left many Michigan woodlot owners wondering how to best utilize ash trees.  There are still lots of spots in our state that have not yet been affected much by EAB and cutting larger ash trees (greater than 15 inches in diameter) before EAB moves in certainly makes good economic sense and could play a role in disease control.  But, it is sometimes tough to predict how soon EAB will hit some of those (currently) disease-free trees.  Inquiries to local Michigan Department of Agriculture may yield some insight about how quickly landowners need to act.

Once a tree is infested by EAB, the leaves start coming off and new shoots start to sprout near the base of the tree.  The ash wood will retain most of its lumber value for a year or two after that, perhaps bringing $80 to $100 per thousand board feet.  But once the bark starts falling off, timber buyers will likely consider the wood suitable only for making pallets and the value drops off dramatically.   Thus, landowners wanting the most cash for their trees must move quickly to attract buyers.  There is a lot of ash available to be cut, but most of it is smaller than timber buyers seek and many landowners don’t have enough of it to warrant a logging project.  So, landowners with big ash trees and good volumes can still expect a number of timber buyers to bid.
Ash trees killed by EAB have value as firewood, provided that wood is not moved outside quarantined areas.  Ash logs split and dry fairly easily and have long been favored by homeowners who heat with wood and campers alike.  And there are unique local markets for ash wood.  For example, some Native Americans occasionally purchase ash wood for basket-making.

The ash tree (white ash, green ash, and black ash) has great importance in Native culture as it was and still is the tree used to make baskets and other utility containers, according to Eva Menefee, of the Oneida Tribe.  “Many of the most beautiful baskets that have lasted throughout the years were those made from wood of the ash tree,” she added.  “While this tree was not one of the defined sacred plants, through tradition, the ash tree played an important role in the daily lives of Native people.  It was used for thousands of years, to provide Native peoples with material to make items that were used daily and on special occasions.”
Landowners who aren’t interested in selling ash wood can opt to leave some or all of the larger (greater than 12 inches in diameter) diseased trees standing.  That will benefit cavity dwelling wildlife, especially woodpeckers, owls, song birds, squirrels, raccoons and opossums.

In 1988, the Forest Service not only began retaining dead and dying trees after timber harvests, it began experimenting with different methods of creating such habitat components in stands where they were absent.  In one effort the Forest Service and the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy joined in a partnership to create snags by topping trees at a height of 20-25 feet with a mechanical shear.  This was found to be a cost effective way to help cavity nesting wildlife.  Ash trees tend to develop valuable cavities in about six to seven years regardless if the trees are killed by EAB or a mechanical method.

You Can Save Your Ash Tree
Most homeowners in the Lower Peninsula have already lost the ash trees in their yard.  But if you have a specimen tree or two that you want to keep alive, the following is recommended:

Purchase the soil insecticide imadacloprid at your garden center or box store.  A common brand is Bayer Advanced Tree and Shrub Insect Control.  Follow the instructions to mix the appropriate amount for the size of tree(s) and spread around tree, about 18’’ from the trunk.
Before drenching the soil remove all mulch and organic material so that the insecticide gets into the soil immediately.  Don’t treat your tree if the soil is water-logged.  Treat ash trees once annually in mid-fall or mid to late spring.

Keep it Wild!

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