Identifying Emerald Ash Borer

The emerald ash borer has an exotic name for such a tiny insect. Measuring barely one-half inch long when fully grown, Agrilus planipennis has become one of the most invasive threats to ash trees worldwide.

This beetle, sometimes nicknamed EAB, can be traced back to the continent of Asia. How it managed to travel around the world is still a matter of speculation, but the most likely culprits are shipping boxes made of the beetle’s favorite food – ash trees.

Today, the EAB is a documented invasive species that is catalogued in the federal government’s National Invasive Species Information Center.

According to recent reports, the emerald ash borer has a documented presence in 35 out of 50 US states and six out of 10 Canadian provinces in North America. The beetle has already killed up to 100 million ash trees throughout the continent and shows no signs of stopping.

Are there any tricks to identifying emerald ash borer? What type of emerald ash borer treatment is available if your ash trees become infested? Read on to find out!

Tips for Identifying Emerald Ash Borer Beetles

This diminutive beetle actually causes the least amount of damage in its adult lifestage. When the beetle is really devastating is when the EAB is in the larval stage and is feeding like mad on the inner bark of the ash tree trunk, literally destroying the tree from the inside out.

Not surprisingly, it can be hard to identify the beetles when they are in the larval stage. If the adult beetle is tiny, the eggs are even tinier – each one measures barely 0.25 inches in length.

However, there are distinctive patterns that begin to appear as EAB larvae start feeding on ash tree bark. You can look for each of the following:

– Outer bark splitting open vertically.
– S-shaped formations in the bark called “galleries” that snake one way and then the other, up, down or side to side across the bark surface.
– Plenty of brown dusty substance called “frass” that the larvae leave behind while feeding.
– D-shaped holes that the adult beetles make when they emerge from the inner bark.
– The upper canopy of your ash tree begins to look sparser and this intensifies as time passes.
– You see odd branches and shoots called “suckers” start to grow out from around the lower portion of the trunk and these are covered with larger-than-normal leaves.

This graphic may also help you decide if what you are seeing may be an EAB infestation.

Another possible sign that EAB’s have moved in happens when your ash trees start to attract more woodpeckers, who love to hunt the larvae. Woodpeckers can also cause tree damage, and just seeing woodpeckers does not necessarily mean you have an EAB infestation.

But if you see both the woodpeckers and some of the signs mentioned earlier here, it is time to call out the pros for an evaluation.

Once you have succeeded in identifying emerald ash borer issues, it is time to move on to your treatment options.

Emerald Ash Borer Treatment Options

The ash borer beetle represents an active and growing threat to ash trees throughout North America.

In Nebraska and elsewhere, areas of quarantine have been established and are adjusted as necessary. The quarantines help to prevent EAB infestations from spreading by preventing removal and/or export of infected ash trees or ash products (firewood, et al) into new areas.

You have two basic options for treatment once you have a confirmed infestation on your hands. The first option is treatment with chemicals. The second option is tree removal. In all cases, the earlier you confirm an EAB infestation, the more likely you will be to find success in taking a treatment and remediation approach.

Tree removal.

If your ash tree is currently 14 inches or less in circumference around the widest part of the main trunk, we typically recommend removing the tree.

Not only does this follow the official U.S. Department of Agriculture EAB infestation tree removal guidelines, but it can also save you time and money as young ash trees have less resilience in the face of EAB infestation.

However, if your ash tree is greater than 14 inches in circumference and/or represents a significant value to your property, or if you are currently situated in an EAB quarantine area where other trees are being actively treated, you may wish to try to save the tree.

In this case, your main option is treatment with chemicals.

Treatment with chemicals.

Currently, there are two main treatment systems in use to combat ash borer infestations in North America.

The first treatment system is called the Mauget system. With this system, the chemical treatment is injected into the interior of the tree. The treatment consists of capsules filled with a chemical insecticide called Imicide.

One positive aspect of the Mauget system is that the treatment is environmentally friendly and has a 50-year history of success in treating infestations.

However, the Mauget system is usually only recommended for smaller ash trees.

The second treatment system is called the TREEage Arborjet system. With this system, the chemical treatment is infused into the interior of the tree and straight into its arboreal vascular system by means of an I.V. filled with Emamectin Benzoate.

This treatment is typically recommended for larger ash trees.

In addition to injectable and I.V. options, there are also options to spray the tree and soak the surrounding ground with the appropriate insecticide.

What to Do If You Suspect an EAB Infestation

The first step is to have your ash tree evaluated by a professional licensed arborist for the state of Nebraska. We come to your property, measure the circumference of your ash tree, evaluate its overall health and estimate the scope of the emerald ash borer infestation.

We then provide you with a free, no-obligation quote for removal versus treatment.

Rhizosphaera Needle Cast

Rhizosphaera needle cast is a type of fungus that primarily affects spruce trees. The term Rhizosphaera refers to the species of invading fungus, while the term needle cast refers to how the disease progresses as the spruce “casts off” infected needles.

Not all spruce varietals are susceptible to Rhizosphaera needle cast disease, which can aid in landscaping decisions. Colorado blue spruce, Oriental spruce and white spruce are known to be susceptible to this fungal infection, while Norway and red spruce are more resistant.

If you are caring for spruce trees at your home or workplace, it is important to learn the signs of needle cast infestation. The earlier you catch a fungus like Rhizosphaera, the more successful treatment is likely to be.

In this post, learn what Rhizosphaera needle cast is, what it looks like, where it comes from, treatment options and prevention tips.

What Is Rhizosphaera?

The term Rhizosphaera actually represents more than one fungal species, although the species R. kalkhoffii is most frequently implicated in spruce infestations.

This type of fungal infestation is actually rather common in spruce trees, especially among those that are planted in areas where they are not a native species. Wet, cool conditions can speed up and worsen an infestation.

What Does Needle Cast Disease Look Like?

Needle cast disease can take some time to become evident. The amount of stress the tree is under can shorten the time period to less than one season. Evergreen trees like the spruce won’t replace shed needles, so over time as the disease progresses, the symptoms will become more evident as the tree grows increasingly bare.

In general, it takes 12 to 15 months before symptoms become easy to detect. The main symptoms include the following:

– While new needles grow in green, older needles become discolored, often turning brown or yellow.
– When observed closely, needles can be seen to have tiny black dots along their length that are fungal spores (black dots are diseased; white dots are normal).
– Needles that have grown discolored will be shed in the fall and will not regrow.
– As the infestation progresses, the tree will look increasingly bare or even “see through.”
– The most typical damage pattern begins with infestation on the lower limbs that consistently moves upward until only the topmost crown of needles remains.
– After a majority of needles have become infected, this can then cause the branch to die off.

What Causes an Infestation?

Unfortunately, the Rhizosphaera spores are quite difficult to kill even through the harsh winter season, where they overwinter on living or dead needles. When spring arrives and the snow melts, splashing water can infest nearby trees.

The overall health of the tree can make it less or more susceptible to an infestation. Trees that are already stressed out from lack of water or nutrients, a difficult winter, poor husbandry or other health issues may be more apt to become infected.

While the fungus prefers young needles, it will also infect older needles if the need arises.

What Treatment Options Exist?

For severely infected trees, especially if they are smaller spruce that hold little value to your property, the best option is often a simple tree removal.

Several fungicides have proven to be effective to save spruce infected with Rhizosphaera. Fungicide chemicals that contain chlorothalonil or copper as an active ingredient are typically the most effective.

It is important to understand that there is no “cure” for Rhizosphaera and re-infection can occur at any time. The goal of fungicide treatment is not to cure the tree, but to prevent further infection or spread of Rhizosphaera.

The optimal time for treatment is in the spring during new needle growth. It is recommended to space fungicide treatments three to four weeks apart, continuing throughout the spring growing period or the wet season as applicable.

Fungicide should be sprayed over the entire tree. It is very important to ensure all needles receive the fungicide treatment, which can become more challenging with very large spruce.

Is There Any Way to Prevent It?

The hands-down best way to prevent a Rhizosphaera infestation is to plant a resistant varietal of spruce such as Norway or red spruce. However, be aware that even these spruce varietals can become infected under the right conditions.

Always take care to only plant non-infected spruce and to avoid planting any new trees near already infected trees. When infected branches or needles fall, take care to dispose of them by burning (if allowed in your area) hot composting or burying.

Colorado blue spruce is the most vulnerable. But any spruce varietal that is planted in sub-optimal conditions or has ongoing health issues is a potential candidate for Rhizosphaera infestation.

One key to preventing a Rhizosphaera infestation is to practice proper husbandry. These tips can help to prevent fungal invasion:

– Be sure your trees are pruned properly to facilitate maximum air circulation – air is not a friend to Rhizosphaera, which thrives in damp, cool, close conditions.
– Keep proper distance between trees when planted to avoid overlap as they grow.
– Keep your tree base properly weeded and mulch only up to four inches depth and up to two inches away from the trunk itself to permit proper airflow.
– Do not use sprinklers that spray near spruce (soaker hoses are a much safer option).
– Avoid pruning during the wet season to prevent fungal spread.
– Have a preventative fungicide treatment done annually to protect new needle growth (this can be helpful even on previously infected trees).

What to Do If You Suspect Rhizosphaera

The first step is to have your trees evaluated by a tree care professional. We will come to your site to evaluate your spruce and make recommendations for removal and/or treatment.

We will then provide you with a free, no-obligation quote for tree removal or the treatment option of your choice.