Currently viewing the tag: "emerald ash borer"

James Rada, Jr.

As we move into spring and the trees on Catoctin Mountain and around Northern Frederick County turn green, Thurmont is not overly worried about the devastation caused by the emerald ash borer.

Emerald ash borer is a beetle that is native to eastern and southeast Asia. It was first discovered in the United States in 2002 in Michigan, and it quickly spread from there, appearing in Maryland the following year. The Emerald ash borer is responsible for the destruction of tens of millions of ash trees in 30 states.

“It has about a 98.8 percent mortality rate for ash trees, so you are not going to have any survivability,” Lou Meyer with Davey Tree Experts told the Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners during a town meeting.

When it first appeared in Thurmont, town staff worried that Community Park would be hard hit because it has around 170 ash trees.

“We wanted to avoid losing all the trees, if we could,” said Thurmont Chief Administrative Officer Jim Humerick.

Davey Tree Expert Company was hired in 2016 to start treating the ash trees. It was done with a select group at first, but as the treatment proved effective, more ash trees were treated.

The treatment is a two-step process, with trees being given a pesticide injection one year and a soil booster of pesticides the following year. The two treatments work together to repel the beetle. It continues back and forth until it is determined not to be needed.

“We are seeing a very high success rate with those treatments,” Meyer said.

They have also seen an unexpected benefit.

“Interestingly, some of the trees that aren’t being treated are showing some response as well,” Meyer said.

Since the trees’ root systems connect beneath the ground, apparently, nutrients are getting transferred between trees and providing some residual protection to ash trees that haven’t been treated yet.

While this treatment has been used in different areas, Thurmont is where it has had the greatest success, cutting the mortality rate from 98.8 percent to around 7 percent.

If Thurmont hadn’t started treating its ash trees, Community Park would be looking like a soccer field, according to Meyer, rather than a healthy woodland.

“Until we confirm that there is not a large infestation around us, we are going to keep doing the treatments,” Humerick said. This could be some years yet since Catoctin Mountain is full of untreated ash trees that will feed the beetles and keep them in the area.

The treatments cost Thurmont around $20,000 a year. While replacing dead trees would be cheaper, they would not be fully mature, tall trees like the ones in Community Park. It would take years, if not decades, for replacement trees to truly replace the ones that might be lost.

Luckily, it doesn’t seem residents will have to wait. Community Park is still providing plenty of shade.

James Rada, Jr.

A forester from the Maryland Department of the Environment Forestry Division toured Thurmont’s Community Park a few months ago, studying each tree. The emerald ash borer had been found on private property in Thurmont, and he wanted to see if the beetle had made it to other properties.

The emerald ash borer (shown right) is a beetle that was first found in the United States in Michigan in 2002. It was first discovered in Maryland in 2006. Despite quarantines to keep potentially infected firewood from crossing state lines, the emerald ash borer has now been found in twenty-seven states.

The emerald ash borer is an Asian beetle that probably arrived in this country in wooden packing materials originating in foreign countries. The adult beetles feed on ash tree leaves. This causes little serious damage to the trees. The problem is that the larvae feed on the inner bark of ash trees. This disrupts the tree’s ability to transport water and nutrients, which eventually kills the trees.

The forester’s evaluation was that all but a few of the 276 ash trees in the park had been infected with the emerald ash borer.

The Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners had already allocated $35,000 to treat the trees when they got the news. They asked if having the trees protected would save them. They were told that the trees were already dying and would be completely dead within two years. If treated, that lifespan might be extended a year.

“We could pay $340 a tree to treat the trees, but once the tree is infected, it’s dead,” said Mayor John Kinnaird.

This has caused some discussion among the commissioners with how to deal with the problem. They have come to the realization that the ash trees can’t be saved, which means that the Community Park will lose about forty percent of its trees.

“My personal feeling is if they are going to die anyway, I would rather replant other trees,” said Kinnaird.

While that seems to be the consensus of opinion, the problem is what trees to replant, how large should those trees be, and how to pay for all of it.

Oaks, maples, and holly trees can certainly be planted to replace the dead ash trees, but some of those trees are slow-growing, which could mean that it might be decades for those trees to reach their full growth. Larger trees can certainly be purchased, but the larger the tree is, the more it costs.

“There is going to be a generation of park users that won’t have a Community Park as the nice, shady park that we’re used to seeing,” expressed Kinnaird.

The problem is the sheer number of trees that will need to be replaced. Even minimal costs become expensive when multiplied by 276.

The first thing that the town is doing is using the money allocated for treatment to replace trees. Town staff has also applied for the $1,500 grant to help with costs.

Town staff will start by removing the trees that pose the most danger to park visitors, because they could fall over or drop a limb. Additional trees will be removed in the late fall after Colorfest and early spring. At that time, the new trees will be planted.

The ash trees won’t all be removed at once since that would leave large gaps in the shade cover, and the cost to remove all of them at once would be cost prohibitive. Removing a single tree costs around $800. Removing 276 trees would cost around $221,000, and this doesn’t even include the cost of replacement trees.

Since the town has a couple of years before all of the ash trees are expected to be dead, the mayor and commissioners will allocate money each year for the purpose of removing dead trees and replanting new ones.

“My hope is that some of the trees will last four to five years,” Kinnaird said. “It will be a slow removal process, but it will help keep it from being cost prohibitive.”

The town’s other parks should not have to deal with this problem. Memorial Park has oak and maple trees. Eyler Park has maple and holly trees. The other properties don’t have trees or have enough trees to be an issue.