A few weeks ago I wrote an article on the continued spread of Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) in the Kansas City area. I did not expect to touch a nerve with some people with my comments.
The most frequent feedback I received questioned why I did not include do-it-yourself treatment options. There are several reasons why. Mainly it was due to space limitations and the attention spans of readers. (I realize there is only so much of me you can take before you tune me out. At least that is what my wife and kids tell me all the time.)
There are products on the market that can be used by homeowners to treat ash trees. The most widely available product is Imidacloprid or Merit, which is a Bayer product. Other formulations of this active ingredient are on the market. Dinotefuran is available to home owners but is not always as widely available.
Here is the recommendation for their use in a nutshell. Do-it-yourself treatments are mainly soil drenches best applied in the early spring. They are recommended for smaller ash trees no bigger than 20 inches in trunk diameter. Some sources recommend diameters less than 15 inches. Drenches must be applied yearly.
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These home treatments are fairly inexpensive. They are not as effective as the commercially applied products but are still very reliable. They must be reapplied every year while commercial injections are good for two years.
There are several reasons why I prioritized commercial treatments over homeowner applications in my first article. Let me highlight a few. I am sure that some of you will take exception or disagree. But in this current political climate disagreement is the American way. Let’s keep it civil, unlike some exchanges we see.
EAB is here to stay. It is not going away. Ash trees in Kansas City will always, forever and ever have to be treated to prevent infection. I have heard some say we will only need to treat three or four times and then we will be past the “hump.” After that, treatment will not be necessary or will become less important.
Based on comments from my counterparts who have been dealing with EAB for years that is simply not true. EAB is now here and will remain in the area. They may not be in as high of a concentration as at first (thus the suggested “hump” reference) but they will still always be around to potentially feed on your tree. If you plan to treat think of it as a lifetime commitment. To borrow a basketball phrase there is no “one and done.”
Homeowner treatments, as stated above, are only recommended for smaller trees. So I raise this question: Why would you want to keep a young, smaller tree around that requires yearly maintenance even if the cost is low? Eventually that tree will grow large enough where commercial applications, which are more expensive, become the only treatment option.
Removal of a larger tree is more costly than a younger tree. In the long run you have not saved money but only postponed the inevitable, the death of the tree or the permanent addition of a new expense to the family budget.
Thinking of selling your home or purchasing a home? How about this thought. Are you more likely to purchase a home with a newer roof, furnace or AC unit? Or would you rather purchase the home with a 25-year-old roof and units that will soon need the expense of replacement?
What about this angle. You are house shopping and Home #1 has a nice landscape with diverse trees. Home #2 has a couple of large ash trees that have been treated for EAB. If you purchase Home #2 you are faced with the decision of continuing to pay for EAB treatments which can be several hundred dollars a year, or the cost of tree removal. Which home might you purchase? Simply put, treated ash trees can be a liability on the home market.
So I ask this question, is it wise to treat a younger, smaller ash tree or better to replant with a different species for the next generation? I think in most cases the answer is replace. Granted you will lose years of growth and the beauty but your money is invested in the future, not in prolonging a life that is solely dependent on continued treatments. Remember we are talking about trees here not your loved-ones.
I do agree that dealing with EAB and the loss of a tree is an emotional struggle. I know. I have an ash tree in my yard. But after looking at the science and talking with colleagues back east in states devastated by EAB I have come to my conclusion. I will go on record, even if some disagree, saying when it comes to trees it is always best to invest in the future. Remember the best time to plant a tree was yesterday not tomorrow.