NY Ash Trees & the Emerald Ash Borer

In many neighborhoods of New York, ash trees are very common and popular street trees. According to the Department of Environmental Conservation of New York State, the “ash species (white, green and black) comprise almost 8% of all trees in NY State. Ash is a commercially-valuable species and is used for baseball bats, flooring, furniture, lumber, and pallet manufacture. Black ash is also prized by Native American tribes, including the Akwesasne, for traditional basket making. The estimated annual contribution of forest-based manufacturing and forest-related recreation and tourism to the New York State economy is over $9 billion.”

Indeed, ash trees are significant to New York and its people. Sadly, many areas of New York are home to ash trees that are dying or have already died. As landowners and investors with larger land lots who are impacted by ash trees dying in New York, this article will provide information on why NY ash trees are dying and what you can do to help.

Why Ash Trees Are Dying in NY

According to NewYorkUpState, there are 900 million ash trees in New York, which is about 7% of the state’s total tree population. However, ash trees have been dying rapidly over the past few years, and many parts of New York have noticed a clear difference in their population. The deaths of ash trees in New York are very evident and there is no doubt that the environment will never be the same. So, why are many New York ash trees dying? The emerald ash borer, also known as EAB, is a small insect but a mighty adversary that has been wreaking havoc on ash trees for the past few decades. Millions of ash trees have already been killed by this invasive species, and it seems that these pests have no intention of stopping.

How EABs Kill Ash Trees

The adult emerald ash borer consumes the leaves of the ash tree before laying eggs just beneath the bark, beginning at the top and moving downward. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, “EAB larvae kill ash trees by tunneling under the bark and feeding on the part of the tree that moves water and sugars up and down the trunk.”

The Emerald Ash Borer (EAB)

The emerald ash borer, scientific name Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire, is a wood-boring beetle that is native to Asia and feeds on all species of Ash before eventually killing them. The EAB belongs to a family of beetles called Buprestidae that can be in color green, white, black and blue ash. The adult emerald ash borers, which are a bright metallic green color and have incredibly short antennae, are the most prevalent EAB that many people have encountered in New York. They have a half-inch length and an eighth-inch width.

Life Cycle of EAB

Depending on the size of the infestation, the EAB’s life cycle can last one or two years. EAB life cycle extends in a perfect environment, especially in stressed ash trees. EAB has four life stages:

  • Adult
  • Egg
  • Larva
  • Pupa

In their lifetime, female EABs can lay 60 to 90 eggs. From mid-May to July, they lay eggs on the ash tree bark’s surface or cracks and crevices. One to two weeks later, the eggs hatch and turn into larvae. You can distinguish a larva because of its cream-colored body with bell-shaped body segments. Summer is the feeding season for larvae and typically lasts from late June through October. As the larvae develop and eat, these damages to the ash trees grow in size. Depending on how many larvae are on an ash tree, EAB larval densities can disrupt the flow of water and nutrients of the ash tree, leading to crown dieback and death over a two- to five-year period.

In the early spring, typically in April or May of the following year, pupation now occurs. After a few months of feeding, the pupa gradually develops into EAB adults. Adults have a short lifespan of three to six weeks and eat only plant material for one to two weeks before mating. Finally, adults will then mate and start a new life cycle.

Signs of Ash Tree Damages

After an EAB infestation, the majority of ash trees die within two to four years. Given how slowly the effects can manifest in a tree, it might be challenging to spot damage. However, there are typical indications of ash tree damage brought on by EABs. The first obvious indication that an ash tree is being infested by EABs is seeing adult EABs in the trees. Adult EABs are the ones that are most noticeable due to their size and appearance. Even though adult EABs cause less harm than larvae, their presence is a warning sign that the ash tree may also be home to larvae that are causing harm and may eventually kill the tree.

Here are some damage indicators that you might see in an EAB-infested ash tree:

  • Cracks and splits on bark: As the ash tree’s larvae feed, the ash tree develops defensive mechanisms to protect itself, some of which try to protect damaged areas with a layer of corky tissue. This layer’s thickness presses against the outer bark, causing cracks to appear along the trunk.
  • D-shaped holes and serpentine galleries: Adults EABs form D-shaped holes as their passage in and out of the ash tree. While larvae form S-shaped galleries with how they feed in the bark tissues.
  • Woodpecker activity is high: If a woodpecker is active in a particular ash tree, there is a chance that the tree has an EAB infestation because woodpeckers love to hunt EABs and larvae.

What To Do With Dead Ash Trees

As landowners and investors with lots that have dead ash trees, they will probably become dangerous over time and need to be taken out right away. If you can see adult EABs on the dead tree at the time it was removed, there is a good chance that the borers are still infesting the dead tree. As a result, you should not place the dead tree anywhere close to a healthy ash tree to avoid infection. One of the best things you can do is chop the wood and burn it. Then you can take advantage of the ashes as fertilizer in planting new trees.

Plant New Trees

The number of ash trees dying in New York as a result of emerald ash borers is steadily rising. If your land was recently cleared of dead ash trees, it is time to think about planting trees there. There are many excellent reasons why you should begin planting trees on your land. Beyond their aesthetic value, trees can improve the environment in your neighborhood and community.

Future Forest Consulting, Inc. is a top-notch forest management company that can assist you in planting trees on your property. As participants in the New York State DEC Cooperating Forest Consultant Program, our objective is to increase the knowledge of investors and landowners with regard to resource management, particularly with regard to tree planting. Future Forest Consulting, Inc. offers tree & orchard planting to support you in your fight against the damage that the EABs inflicted on numerous ash trees in New York. We will work with you to plant ash trees in the most secure, safe, and environmentally friendly manner possible, which will benefit not only your property but also the surrounding area and environment.

Contact us today to take a step toward protecting your environment and restoring ash trees.

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