Johnson County horticulture agent lays out options for ash owners as emerald ash borer reality sets in

Patton told attendees not to panic about the EAB infestation, and to take time to make an informed choice about what to do with their ash trees.
Patton told attendees not to panic about the EAB infestation, and to take time to make an informed choice about what to do with their ash trees.

Johnson County horticulture agent Dennis Patton on Wednesday painted a bleak picture of the future of ash trees in the Kansas City metro, but gave attendees at a community information session in Mission some hope that there were ways to spare healthy and prized specimens from death by emerald ash borer (EAB) infestation.

Patton told the crowd of approximately 100 at the Sylvester Powell, Jr. Community Center that, based on the progress of infestations in eastern cities where EAB arrived years ago, if no one treated any ash trees in Kansas City, the species would effectively disappear from the area in 15 years. As such, thousands and thousands of homeowners will be faced with what to do with the more than two million ash trees in the metro area.

The information session in northeast Johnson County was especially timely, as Prairie Village just confirmed in March that the devastating insect had made its way into the city, where ash trees dominate the landscapes of neighborhoods to the north.

Among the considerations Patton suggested for homeowners with ash trees were:

  • The mortality rate of ash trees in areas with EAB infestation is relatively low the few years of the epidemic, but spikes between years six and 12. Patton said that because the infestation in the area was still in its early stages, homeowners with ash trees had time to make a decision about how to best handle the threat of the insect. “There’s no need to panic yet,” he said. “Don’t let anyone force you into making a decision about whether to do a treatment or take the tree out.”
  • People who have healthy and relatively young but mature specimens that they value highly may want to consider having their trees treated with an insecticide to spare it from the insects. Those with older or damaged trees that aren’t as highly valued may decide to have their trees preemptively removed. Ash trees are susceptible to wood rot as they get older, so the older a tree is, the more likely it would be to have damage that would make it especially vulnerable to EAB infestation.
  • Patton suggested that people who know they want to have their ash tree removed do it “sooner than later.” For one, the sooner you plant a replacement, the sooner it will start to grow and fill out in your yard. Another factor to consider is the expected expense associated with tree removal as the EAB infestation grows. As more and more people decide to remove their trees, the demand on tree services will increase and the price is likely to grow up as well. Removing trees now may come at a cheaper cost than a few year down the road.
  • Patton encouraged people who decide they want to save their ash tree by treating it to get several quotes. He noted that when people decide to treat trees, they need to realize that treatment must be carried on forever — it’s not a one time application.

Patton also provide attendees with this information sheet about how to decide what to do with an ash tree: