The Death of a Species

Reader Contribution by Carrie Miller and Miller Micro Farm
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Photo by author – the slow death 

As I look around my front yard, I see what once were many gorgeous Ash trees. Over the past few years, we have watched as each tree has slowly died off. With only a few remaining, it is especially sad, as the few remaining have begun to show the signs of death as well. This past weekend was spent dropping the remaining. With four more to go, it got a bit harder with each cutting them down. Wood is never wasted around here they simply get cut, split, stacked, and dried to finish out their life heating our home. Whether wasted or not I will miss the huge canopies that once shaded a large portion of our yard. So, why are all the Ash dying?

The Day of Reckoning

Photo by Author – The damage 

The imported wood-boring bug called the emerald ash borer has been wiping out ash trees over the eastern half of the United States, and it has now hit us here in North East Ohio. The saddest part is that the emerald ash borer is anticipated to kill nearly 100 percent of ash trees within four to five years. So, what and where did the emerald ash borer come from? The emerald ash borer is an Asian native; first discovered destroying ash trees in Michigan in 2002. It’s thought they may have come over on wooden packaging from its native land.  Dan Herms, an entomologist at Ohio State University who studies the ash borer, called it “the most devastating insect ever to invade North American forests.” It is already the most expensive because it has killed so many urban trees that had to be removed, disposed of and replaced, which has cost billions of dollars, he said.

The Choice

Photo by author – The hard choice to cut it down

The most effective treatment is an insecticide called emamectin benzoate, which can be injected into the trunk of ash trees every few years. It can cost hundreds even thousands to treat the ash trees every few years for an unknown amount of years. It can also cost thousands of dollars to have the trees removed. So, what would you do? It’s a hard choice, the treatment is shown to protect the trees 99% of the time. The unknown factor is how long you will need to treat. No one seems to know when the bugs will either die off or completely move along.  For us we moved here about five years ago we had no idea we had Ash trees or that they were in jeopardy until it was far too late.  We had a local arborist visit us unexpectedly to buy a few chickens. When she left, she stated “those are some gorgeous Ash trees too bad they will be dead soon”. I thought it was an odd statement but did not think much of it, until the fallowing spring when the canopies of the trees began to thin. By fall, whole limbs had become barred of leaves. This spring only a few leaves remain on most.

Watching the Slow Death

Have you ever watched a whole species slowly die off in front of your eyes? How about knowing there is literally nothing you can do to stop it? Unless caught pre exposer the chances of salvation are slim to none. Likely infected years before we even purchased the house all we can do at this point is to remove the trees before they cause any other type of destruction.  The last thing we want is the dying trees to fall upon the power lines, a neighbor’s house, or falling on a passing car in a storm scenario. As we removed each tree, we began to replace each with young healthy trees to grow in place of the ash before it. Ironically, ash were planted as a substitute for elm trees, which were nearly wiped off the map after the deadly Dutch elm disease of the 1960s. Trees are needed for so many creatures including ourselves. As they provide us with shade, they also give homes and food for many others. We have chosen to replace each ash with a separate species of tree as to not have a complete wipe out again. Oak, maple, willow, hickory, and cherry are amongst the trees. What will you do with your ash trees? 

Photo by author – Our last Ash, it’s already begging to thin. 

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