Archive for the 'Emerald ash borer' Category

Time to speak out

I’ve bitten my tongue for far too long. I’ve let climate-change deniers have their say to avoid stepping on various toes and I can’t do it any longer.

Climate change is real. Period.

There, I said it.

It took a vacation to “my” Colorado mountains for a family reunion to open my eyes to how bad things really are.

If you don’t believe me or the consensus of real scientists who deal in facts, I have a challenge for you: Take a trip to the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and go up to about 9,000 feet. Take in the wonder that is around you for a while and then start looking at things in detail. You will start to notice dead and dying lodge-pole pines; in some places whole mountainsides wiped out.

You will see burn piles where last winter, after snow fell, rangers burned 5,000 piles of beetle-infested and dead trees, according to rangers I spoke with. The burn marks were evident at that altitude and they’ve already started building piles to burn this winter (when snow’s on the ground so as to not spread fire).

Who did I get this from?

  • Two different park rangers at two different locations, one as worried as I, the other slightly more optimistic.
  • A wildlife biologist who lives there (extended family member to fully disclose).
  • I also observed the destruction myself.

One of the rangers told me he started a talk at one of the campgrounds two years ago detailing how climate change is affecting the park.

Today, groups are studying a little mammal, a cousin to the rabbit, called the pika. It’s the park’s canary-in-the-coal-mine, if you will, a term I used with the ranger. Groups are studying its changing migration patterns and watching the little guys for signs of extinction. It will go first, the ranger said.

There wasn’t enough cold last year to kill the beetles that are eating the trees from the inside out. Some always survive and kill a few trees. But the trees need at least a week of below 20 degree weather in winter to kill off the bulk of the beetles. That didn’t happen.

Can I say that again? There weren’t 7 consecutive days of high temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit in that part of the Colorado mountains last winter. That’s stunning. I remember that kind of cold in Denver, much less the mountains.

Then there are the fires raging all across the parched west, including the one west of Fort Collins, about 50 miles or so as the crow flies from the northern edge of the park. All those dead trees are tinder for a spark; fuel for fires started by nature or humans and quickly spread by winds that won’t quit.

Or check out Africa, where parched is taking on a whole new meaning. Or the arctic, where polar bears can’t find enough ice to survive.

How much observable data do you need?

Study what’s really happening, then come back and tell me climate change isn’t real with a straight face.

And just for fun, watch this clip of physicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson on Real Time with Bill Maher cleaning the clock of climate denier and former GM chairman Bob Lutz using changing migration patterns as his example.

Closer to home, Kentucky didn’t have much of a winter last year. School actually got out on time, which didn’t happened in three prior years that I’ve paid attention because of a school-age child. And many of the “snow days” in those years weren’t because of snow, they were because of ice. We get ice because it doesn’t get and stay cold enough to snow.

We might have an extreme winter this year, Colorado might have little winter again, or the reverse might be true or some combination of severe storms, or drought, too much cold or not enough. Remember the deadly and destructive March 2 tornadoes? Awful early in the year, don’t you think?

That’s what climate change is: Long-term it means the planet is warming, but short-term, it means changing weather patterns, and more extreme and severe weather (droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, etc.).

There’s no more “normal.”

We better get used to it since politically no one seems willing to stand up to the deniers.

Getting advice on your ash tree

This from the city on dealing with the emerald ash borer, which is, even at you read this, spreading through Kentucky:

The Lexington Tree Board has issued a citizen advisory that makes general recommendation about treating ash trees for the emerald ash borer. The insect has devastated ash tree populations in northern states and has been found in central Kentucky and Lexington. Many ash trees located on public and private property already have been found to be infested.

“There are more than one-half-million ash trees in Fayette County,” said Karen Angelucci, Tree Board Chair. “Every ash tree is at risk of being severely affected or killed by the insect unless they’re successfully treated.”

The tree board handout that provides information about treating ash trees is available through the city’s web site at:

The handout offers some simple instructions on determining if a homeowner can treat a tree themselves or should seek professional help from a certified arborist or tree specialist.

For trees that can be treated by a homeowner, mid-to-late Spring is the best time to treat ash trees with an insecticide available at most larger garden supply or nurseries. Larger trees that require professional insecticide injections should also be treated in the Spring.

Ash trees’ loss would be costly all around

By Andy Mead

Shady Lane is well named. The Arboretum Woods runs along one side of the winding street, and a line of mature ash trees follows the curves on the other side.

Terry Conners has one of the ashes in front of his house. He figures that his tree and the others were planted soon after the street was laid out in 1927.

On Tuesday, the Urban County Council will be presented with a survey by volunteers who counted nearly 7,500 ash trees lining Lexington streets.

The odds look pretty good that, in five years or so, most could be dead or dying.

And that’s just the trees between streets and sidewalks. There are an estimated 500,000 ash trees in parks, private yards, parking lots, greenways and woods in Fayette County. Some are blue ashes that have been standing their ground since before there was a Lexington.

The estimate for the rest of Kentucky: more than 200 million ashes.

They are being attacked by the emerald ash borer, an insect that tunnels beneath the bark of ash trees and kills them.

The borer was found seven years ago near Detroit, and has wiped out countless millions of ashes on its way to Kentucky, where it appeared in May.

The cost to Lexington and Kentucky of losing its ash trees could be astronomical. Peter Barber with the state Division of Forestry has done rough calculations that each tree provides $54 each year in lower home utility bills, the carbon dioxide and other air pollutants it captures and the rain runoff it slows.

Individual homeowners are likely to notice costs that are easier to calculate, such as treating a tree versus having to replace it.

Conners, the Shady Lane resident, is prepared to spend about $400 every couple of years to have his tree treated with a chemical that will protect it from the borer.

His neighbor, Mike Flynn, has two large ashes, one very close to Conners’ driveway. Flynn hasn’t decided whether to treat them or pay to have dead trees removed.

“I am a bit ambivalent,” he said. “It’s between aesthetics or economics.”

Flynn mentioned that part of his deliberations will involve getting financial help from the city in removing trees, and the cost of treating them.

But, at current spending levels, there won’t be nearly enough money to spread around in the city’s cost-share program for removing street trees.

In the fiscal year that started in July, that fund had $10,000. Tim Queary, the city’s urban forester, sent letters to a handful of people who were on a waiting list, and the money was gone. He estimated that the 50-50 share program helped fewer than a dozen people.

The cost of treatment is all over the place. Conners says the $400 estimate he has may be on the high side, even for a large tree such as his. But it’s from an arborist he knows and trusts.

A second bid from someone he doesn’t know came in much lower, he said. That person was proposing to use a chemical that could be less effective. (Conners knows more than the average homeowner about this sort of thing; he’s a wood extension specialist at the University of Kentucky.)

Many factors can go into whether to treat a tree, and even when to start treatment, said Lee Townsend, a UK extension entomologist.

Ash borers fly around in May, but homeowners aren’t likely to see them because they start out high in trees. Most people won’t notice until a tree starts to lose leaves and limbs. The good news, Townsend said, is that treating a tree can be effective even if it already has up to 50 percent dieback from the insect damage.

For a relatively small tree, a homeowner can buy an insecticide at Lowe’s, Home Depot or Wal-Mart. Look for something that is for 12-month tree and insect control.

Trees larger than 15 inches in diameter will need to be treated by a professional, he said. Expect to pay about $10 per inch of the tree’s diameter.

Although the do-it-yourself method for small trees is cheaper, Townsend said, that’s not necessarily what you should do.

“For relatively small trees, if you’re going to be on the property for a long time, you may be better off to go ahead and replace the trees or just let nature take its course,” he said.

For a large tree, he said, the homeowner should consider the much larger expense of removing the tree, and the chance that it could fall and damage people or property. You might decide that treatment is the best choice in those cases, Townsend said.

Another thing to take into consideration: A house with large trees is more valuable, but a tree that needs regular treatments — or a tree that is likely to die — could be a drawback in a house that’s on the market.

Some treatments have to be repeated annually. Some last for two or even three years. Chemical treatments have become more effective, and there is long-term hope for a biological control — perhaps a bug that eats the bug.

But Townsend said he doesn’t expect any major breakthrough in the next five years.

Conners also is concerned about what will happen when ash trees along streets die. A city ordinance requires that the homeowner replant those trees. But Queary said that his office, which has three people, is too busy dealing with trees that are in danger of falling on people to handle missing trees.

The city also is going to have its hands full dealing with ash trees on public property, Queary said.

There is no way that most can be treated, which means a lot of removal costs. Green ash trees along Vine Street have been treated this year and probably will be treated again next year, he said. After the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, they might be replaced.

Karen Angelucci, the chairwoman of the Lexington Tree Board, organized volunteers to count street trees. She will make a pitch Tuesday for the city to step up its tree program to deal with the coming ash die-off.

She is worried about dead trees not being replaced, about homeowners being scammed by con artists offering weak chemical treatments or hap-hazard tree removal.

Angelucci said she has heard in recent months from people who don’t want to use chemicals on their trees, from people who want to do anything to save their trees, and from those who wouldn’t give it a second thought if all the ashes die.

The tree board’s role is to advise city officials on tree issues, but Angelucci said she doesn’t know what kind of response she will get Tuesday.

“I’m not going to ask them for money, I’m not going to ask them to come up with a solution, I’m just going to let them know what is going on,” she said.
Reach Andy Mead at (859) 231-3319 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3319.