You might not know it, but many of Indiana’s counties, including Jackson, are under quarantine.
It’s not a quarantine to keep sickness from spreading from person to person, but one designed to prevent the spread of a destructive species of insect — the emerald ash borer.
The larvae of that beetle, native to Asia, can damage ash trees to the extent that they eventually die and have to be removed.
Indiana, in addition to many counties in Ohio and Illinois, has been under quarantine since November 2006. That limits the transport of wood to quarantine areas only.
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According to the Department of Natural Resources website, the emerald ash borer was found in southeastern Michigan in 2002, and that was the beginning of its occupation of the Midwest. It was found in Indiana for the first time in 2004.
Since 2002, the emerald ash borer has killed 25 million trees across the country, and tens of millions of dollars have been spent trying to deal with them, according to the United States National Arboretum website.
The emerald ash borer is an insect of the beetle family originally native to Asia, according to the DNR. It is believed to have made its way to the Americas in or on lumber.
As adults, the emerald ash borer eats leaves like many other insects and is fairly harmless.
As a larvae, however, the emerald ash borer builds complex tunnels feeding on the outer “sapwood” of a tree. Over time, the multitude of tunnels adds together to create spaces or galleries, which cause the tree to die and bow.
“One of the most distinguishing features of an emerald ash borer infestation is the D-shaped hole left when the larva exists the tree,” said David Pyle, a forester with Timber Sales and Wildlife Management in Seymour.
Seymour resident Julia Aker found out about the emerald ash borer when the tree that was in her front yard started showing signs of dying without any cause.
“It’s been there 29 years, as long as I had been at that house,” Aker said.
Another city resident, Connie Gerth, said she has been aware of the emerald ash borer for some time and still gets her trees treated.
“A lot of people lose beautiful trees that have been there for years,” Gerth said. “When you’re young, you may not think of the life of a tree, but when you’re older, they’re an investment you’ve put time and money in. You don’t want them to just die.”
Aker said she started noticing some branches of her ash tree dying and decided to have it examined by an expert.
According to Purdue University, an ash tree with more than half of its leaves is worth saving, especially if it enhances the landscape and has value to the homeowner. In that case, it’s recommended that the homeowner obtain quotes from two different tree experts.
The treatment for the tree infested with the borer would be more in this case than simply removing the tree. If it were to survive, it would still have many dead branches.
“It’s sad that I’m losing it, but I didn’t want to risk it falling down or branches falling down,” Aker said.
Aker said she is trying to focus on the positive, using the tree’s removal as a chance to have some landscaping done at her house.
She contacted Barry’s Tree Service in Seymour to remove the tree.
Barry Morris, owner of that business, said the tree was infested with the emerald ash borer larva.
“I’m not an expert on the bug, but you can see plenty of tunnel marks through the branches, and the tree is peppering with dead spots, so that is a pretty obvious sign,” he said while pointing them out on a cut piece of the tree Monday.
He added that if an ash tree is dying or having sections die and the area isn’t in a drought, there is a good chance the ash borer is the culprit.
The bug is a small, fast-moving, aggressive pest that can kill healthy ash trees within two or three years after they become infested, according to DNR.
People may see signs on the side of the roads as they enter wooded areas reminding them to not carry firewood from one area to another or similar measures.
Pyle believes this effort may be in vain, as there is little purpose to having a quarantine when other surrounding states also are infested with the borer and under quarantine.
“They can fly and will fly pretty good distances to find an ash tree they like,” he said.
After they do that, they will make it their home.
Pyle said ash borers tend to like trees that are already weakened, either through drought or prior disease.
This doesn’t mean healthy trees are immune but simply that healthy trees have a much higher rate of survival.
Treating the bugs relies on first identifying the infestation and then treating it, usually with insecticides.
There are several different versions of the treatment, including sprays and the method Pyle recommends, “injection treating,” boring a hole into the tree near the base and then plugging it with a plug that the insecticide can be injected through.
The tree’s water circulation system can then transport the insecticide throughout the tree. The injection treatment usually is good for two years, and Pyle said there is Purdue University research backing up the method.
“For larger areas of ash trees, the injection method might not be feasible,” he said.
Pyle said trees infested with ash borers may take several years to die, but branches that die create the potential for injury if they fall and hit someone.
There also is an aesthetic effect, which may have an effect on the property value of the home, he said.
The only counties in Indiana not affected by the quarantine are in the southwestern part of the state.
Signs of an emerald ash borer infestation:
- Must be an ash tree
- Branches dying in the tree with no cause, such as obvious diseases or drought
- D-shaped holes in the trunk or branches of the tree
- Tunnel marks in sections below the bark
- Bark or parts of the trunk falling off
For information about the emerald borer in Indiana, visit extension.entm.purdue.edu/EAB.