Save our trees! Learn about invasive species this Arbor Day
MIDDLBEURY — As Vermonters join others around the nation to celebrate National Arbor Day — Vermont celebrates on the first Friday of May — there’s worrisome news on the horizon: Vermont is currently surrounded by two tree-killing beetles — the Emeral Ash Borer and Asian Longhorned.
According to Middlebury-based arborist Chris Zeoli, who has run his own arborist business for 41 years and took on the task as Middlebury’s tree warden three years ago, the two beetles (both invasive species) pose a serious threat to the town’s trees and to Vermont’s forests.
“I don’t want to scare people,” Zeoli said, “but Emerald Ash Borers are probably in Vermont already. They literally surround us. They’re in New York, New Hampshire, Quebec and Massachusetts.”
Zeoli said the beetles are extremely fatal to ash trees. That’s bad news, considering ash trees are one of the top 10 most common trees in Vermont; the state tallies about 160 million Ash trees. Of the trees planted on Middlebury’s greenscape — the small piece of land between private property and the roadway — Ash trees make up nine percent.
Emerald Ash Borers make quick work of the trees; the tree typically dies within two to four years. That means, we could face a significant number of dead trees in town and in the state’s forests.
So how do we save our trees?
“That is the 64 million dollar question,” Zeoli said in an interview last week. “There is a product homeowners can broadcast on the surface (and the tree absorbs through its roots), or injections that can be administered by a tree service.” There are both conventional and organic options for both methods. The treatment has to be done every other year, and costs about $10 per DBH — that’s diameter at breast height, meaning the diameter of the tree measured four-and-a-half feet above the surface. For example if a tree has an 18-inch diameter, it would cost about $180 to treat. “It does not hurt the tree, but it does hurt other pests on the tree,” said Zeoli. “And it does keep the Emerald Ash Borer from affecting the tree.”
Ash trees in a natural forest environment can live for a couple of hundred years, but in an urban environment the trees endure more stress. “Middlebury has taken some ash trees down already that were in poor condition and stressed,” Zeoli said, adding that he thinks taking down weak ash trees proactively is a good idea.
The Emerald Ash Borer is on its way — Zeoli has no doubts. “It is a sad story. Our trees are in trouble… People aren’t that concerned yet, but it is something to be concerned with. Every breath you breath is filtered by a tree, so yeah, they’re kind of important.
“The Emerald Ash Borers are going to hit us… I’m amazed we haven’t found them yet. These bugs spread faster than they would naturally because they travel in firewood. That’s the crux of the biscuit. We could quarantine the pests, but we can’t quarantine people… It’s up to us. It’s really important that people take this seriously,” Zeoli urged. “The ash tree is a major deciduous tree in our forest environment; it will be a huge loss.”
How do you know if your ash tree has the Emerald Ash Borer?
“One thing you want to look for is a lot of woodpecker activity in the upper canopy,” Zeoli explained. “That’s a major red flag.”
If you suspect your tree has been infested, call the town offices and ask how to contact one of the area’s first detectors: Lee Terrier, Sally Thodal or Zeoli. Meet Zeoli and other members of the Middlebury Tree Committee on May 6, where you can ask questions and learn more about the trees.
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