Opinion Matters

With Gazette Opinion Editor Greg Peck

Emerald ash borer taking toll in Janesville

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Greg Peck
Wednesday, May 21, 2014

This is Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week, but after all the local publicity and seminars, it's hard to imagine any homeowner still being ignorant of this tiny insect's threat. The ash borer was first confirmed on Janesville's east side two years ago, and it appears to be taking a toll in nearby blocks. I noticed a large tree on a Martin Road terrace with the telltale signs last year, and this year it's gone. Another one was cut down at a neighboring terrace. I'm guessing it, too, was infected.

On my morning dog walks along Ringold Street, I notice two more big ash trees showing signs of distress. While leaves are emerging on trees all over, the leaves on these two ash trees are only on about the bottom third of branches. That's not a good indication of health. I wonder if these homeowners are ignorant of the ash borer or just figure letting their trees die is no big deal. Having a company remove a tree and stump that large, however, will cost upward of $1,000, say nothing about the loss of cooling shade for your home. I know; we went through that a few years ago when an ash tree died of some ailment other than the ash borers.

Last year, Cheryl and I had a local company insert pesticide in our large remaining ash tree on our terrace. That treatment wasn't cheap, but it protects the tree for two years.

A news release from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection says at least 20 Badger State counties harbor this exotic insect. It's not just in Rock but also neighboring Walworth, Dane and Jefferson counties. The insect has decimated urban trees and forests in the eastern half of the U.S. It is native to Asia and attacks all species of North American ash trees.

As people travel this Memorial Day holiday weekend, the department urges people not to risk spreading borers farther by transporting firewood out of quarantined counties. Buy firewood near campsites or from a state-certified vendor.

The department says slowing the spread will give scientists time to find more and better controls, and give communities and landowners time to replace ash trees with species that are not susceptible to the pest. With Wisconsin forests including more than 765 million ash trees, this caution is well advised.

You can learn about signs of ash borer infestation at emeraldashborer.wi.gov. Report trees that show signs of infestation by calling toll-free at 800-462-2803 or emailing DATCPemeraldashborer@wi.gov.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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