LIMA — Trees have been around about 385 million years. We use them for food, fuel or constructing our homes and buildings. They are used in the creation of everything from medicines to golf balls, chewing gum to rubber. They are the natural habitat for numerous species and were even once worshiped as religious figures by some ancient cultures. Of course, it can’t be forgotten their contribution to the air we breath.
There are those extremes on both sides, the Once-lers and the Loraxes, who take things a little too far when it comes to tree preservation. However, there is a realistic need to focus on maintaining tree viability. There are at least five invasive problems causing concern in the state of Ohio.
Stephanie Miller, a regional urban forester with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry, said it is important to take care of trees, regardless if you are simply planting trees around the yard or are maintaining your own large wooded area.
She said it is very important to work with professionals.
“One of the things we learned from the state of Michigan is that you have to watch for the fly-by-nighters,” Miller said. “Hire professional arborists. Have someone insured do your work and have them show proof of insurance, with at least $1 million worth of coverage.”
Grabbing most of the headlines recently has been the plight of the ash tree at the hands of the emerald ash borer.
The emerald ash borer was first discovered in Michigan in July 2002. It is believed that the non-native insect came in shipments of goods from the Far East. The emerald ash borer is a beetle and affects all species of native ash found in Ohio. The larvae feed on the living portion of the tree, directly beneath the bark. This eating habit restricts the trees’ ability to move essential water and nutrients throughout. In three to five years, even the healthiest tree is unable to survive this attack.
“What we see in general is that some of the younger, healthier ash trees sustain the damage longer,” Miller said. “However, we are unaware that any species of ash tree is 100 percent resistant. The studies are showing that all ash trees planted in the infested area eventually succumb and are completely consumed.
The impact of emerald ash borer is being felt both environmentally and economically. About one in every 10 trees in Ohio is an ash, and ash are a very important part of the ash-elm-cottonwood forest type, which covers parts of northwest Ohio. It is estimated that the financial impact of the problem could reach at least $3 billion in the next 10 years in the state, including removal of damaged trees and needs in the forest industry. The main symptoms of an infested tree are branch die back, sprouting around the base of the tree, and unusual woodpecker activity.
In 2010, the entire state was quarantined for shipment of ash.
“It appears that on a large scale, there is no stopping it,” Miller said. “If you want to have an ash tree in your yard, you may be able to salvage it with insecticides and treatment. This must continue over the life of the tree. For forests, it is not practical.”
The impact of emerald ash borer is obvious when speaking with people in the tree removal industry. Jim Springer with Springer & Sons Tree Service said his crew spends about 40 percent of their working hours removing ash trees.
“It would be impossible to guess how many ash trees we have removed the last few years,” Springer said.
Springer said the current contract they are working on has them removing ash trees from within an area of a bike path being constructed in Montezuma. He said they will remove about 150 ash trees on that project alone.
“And we have dozens of residents waiting for us when we are finished,” Springer said.
Springer said ash tree removal can be cheaper on the pocket book if they swiftly take action when they notice problems.
Don’t wait until the tree is completely dead,” he said.
The Asian longhorn beetle made its way here the same way as the emerald ash borer.
It was first spotted in the United States in 1996 and was first spotted in Ohio in Clermont County. Researchers are working to control any outbreaks. While the Asian longhorn beetle breeds much slower than the emerald ash borer, it is less picky. The Asian longhorn beetle feeds on maple, horsechestnut, buckeye, poplar, willow, elm, birch, London plane, sycamore, mimosa, katsura , hackberry, ash, and mountain ash. Trees of any age may be attacked, which makes them an even greater threat. Once introduced into an area, people unintentionally spread the beetle by cutting or trimming an infested tree and moving the wood elsewhere. To stop the spread, quarantine procedures must be followed in infested areas.
“The fact that it affects so many species makes it potentially dangerous,” Miller said of the Asian longhorn beetle. “It is only in southwest Ohio right now. The earlier we find out about it, the more we can do to stop it.”
In 2008, a potential infestation was completely eradicated in Illinois, giving researchers hope.
Gypsy moths are also causing foresters to focus on potential threats. The moth is native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa. It became established in North America in 1869 when brought to Massachusetts for an unsuccessful attempt to cross it with the silkworm. A few of the insects escaped, and the gypsy moth has gradually spread throughout the northeastern states ever since. It was originally eradicated from Ohio in 1914 in a suburb near Cleveland. Since that time, there have been more than 40 eradication projects in the state. The present program was started in 1971 as a detection/eradication program. The moth destroys trees by defoliating, or eating the leaves. Gypsy moth populations first reached defoliating levels in 1990 in and peaked in 1995.
Both Hardin and Allen counties have had breeding disruption work performed in the last year.
However, there has been extended success with controlling it. Fungal and other treatments have limited problems so far.
“A typical tree can take one to three years of defoliation so it is controllable,” Miller said. “We have held it off for about 20 years.”
Two other pests, the hemlock woolly adelgid and walnut twig beetle have been spotted. They have been contained but foresters keep a watchful eye out on their spread.
Miller said the “Don’t move firewood” campaign has been educational, but that it was difficult at this point to measure its effectiveness. She said websites such as http://emeraldashborerinfo.com, http://treesaregood.com, or http://callb4ucut.com give information on local, state or federal quarantines. Quarantines vary based on the situation.
“Most of Ohio’s campgrounds have been fantastic about it,” Miller said. “They don’t let people bring in their own firewood and they have signs up.”
Miller said it was crucial that people speak with professionals concerning their own yards or wooded lots.
“The overall health of the forest is the key,” Miller said. “It is kind of like our own bodies. Ultimately working with a forester will help your chances. They can help you determine what needs to be removed, or what kind of trees can be planted in that area. Use a professional forester, whether they are with the Department of Forestry or a private individual.”