The emerald ash borer has been found in Bartholomew County for the first time, near the IUPUC campus in Columbus.
Bartholomew County is one of the last, 73rd out of 92, to detect the insect, which destroys ash trees by digging underneath the bark and feeding off the tree’s tissue, said Phil Marshall, director of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources division of entomology and plant pathology.
Replacing ash trees damaged or killed by the insect is expensive, Marshall said. And treatment to save an ash tree is expensive, too.
A tree with a 20-inch diameter, for example, could cost up to $1,000 to treat or to remove. If the tree is removed, it should not be replaced with another ash tree, he said.
The good news is, if you treat an ash tree with the proper pesticide, you can save the tree, said Kris Medic, a board-certified master arborist and educator for Purdue Extension-Bartholomew County.
“Making plans for treatment beginning next spring would be a reasonable step. There really is no cause for alarm,” she said. “If you get the tree under treatment, you can probably save it.”
Purdue Extension isn’t sure how many ash trees there are in Bartholomew County, Medic said, but said it’s important that people treat their ash trees if they hope to save them.
“If the tree isn’t treated within the first three years of infestation, it will probably die within five years,” she said.
David Elsbury, a certified arborist who is a grounds team leader for Columbus Parks and Recreation Department, reported finding the emerald ash borer near the campus recently.
The city has about 400 ash trees on city parks or other city property, but none of those trees are showing any infestation, according to the city press release. Elsbury wasn’t available for a comment.
The emerald ash borer was first detected in Indiana in 2004, Marshall said. It first made its way to the U.S. about 20 years ago from China.
The insect has no predators and most often makes its way to new ash trees by hitching a ride on batches of firewood that are transported around the state or country, Marshall said.
If an ash tree is dead, that’s probably a sign that it has been infested and shouldn’t be used as firewood, he said.
If a property owner has 10 acres or more with woodland that contains ash trees, he should contact the local Department of Natural Resources forester to evaluate if any are infested and whether the trees need to be removed, Medic said.
There are a few different steps that can be taken if a tree is infested, such as applying pesticides to a tree’s trunk or hiring an arborist to evaluate and treat the tree, Marshall said.
“Evaluate the tree,” he said. “If there are a lot of defects and the tree is really close to the house … you need to consider taking the tree down.”
Most trees that have been infested with the emerald ash borer won’t show any signs of deterioration right away, but if the tree’s bark turns from grey to brown and woodpeckers start feeding on the tree, it’s probably dead, he said.
It’s no surprise that the emerald ash borer has found its way to southern Indiana, Medic said.
“We have been aware for 10 years that it was coming,” she said. “Those of us who practice in tree care have been making every effort to make sure owners get their trees under treatment and get them protected.”