Should We Kiss Our Ash Goodbye?

Published by Bucks Country Gardens in LandscapeLawn & GardenPlants


Emerald Ash trees have long been admired for the stunning beauty and glorious shade they add to the landscape. There are many varieties in the United States, but the White, Green and Black Ash trees are most often found in Pennsylvania. In fact, the Green Ash is widely planted in backyards and as a street tree in many of our local cities and towns as they are easy to grow and maintain.

Ash is a hardwood that is tough and very strong but flexible. Because of these characteristics, it is used extensively for making baseball bats, bows, tool handles. The White Ash is generally used in interior design and furniture making and the Black Ash for musical instruments such as solid body guitars. Ash wood makes excellent firewood and is also used for barbecue or smoking wood.

Sounds like a spectacular tree? Indeed it is. The only issue is that the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) favors Ash trees as well. The Emerald Ash Borer is a beetle that is native to Asia and most likely came to the United States on pallets or wood used to stabilize heavy cargo in the late 1990s. This highly destructive pest was first discovered in Michigan in 2002 and has since been identified in Maryland, West Virginia, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and in 2012, Warrington, Pennsylvania. Emerald Ash Borer larvae feed in the outer sapwood of ash trees and can rapidly cut through stems and branches. Trees often die within 1–3 years following the initial infestation.

To view more about the Emerald Ash Borer, here is a stunning 10-minute video from Heritage Lawn & Landscape Care in York County, PA:

What do they look like?

Emerald Ash Borer

Adult beetles are emerald green and approximately ½ inch long. Larvae are cream colored, segmented flat worms that can reach 1 inch in length.

When are they visible?

Emerald Ash Borer overwinters as larvae in branches and stems of ash trees. They complete development in early spring. In May, June and early July, adults emerge and feed on ash foliage and mate. The adults mate and the females lay up to 90 eggs in the bark crevices in stems and branches.

How do I know if my trees are affected?

Look for missing bark due to woodpecker activity and other birds searching for larvae. Check areas where bark has been removed for “S” shaped feeding galleries that wind through the trunk. These galleries are created by larvae. Also search for “D” shaped holes on the bark. This is where adult Emerald Ash Borers exit the trunk of the tree. Eventually crown thinning and branch die back are visible which leads to tree mortality.

What treatment options are available?

Depending on the severity of the infestation, there are a few options available. For healthy Ash trees or during the early stages of seeing Emerald Ash Borer evidence, apply Bayer Advanced Tree & Shrub Protect & Feed (available at Bucks Country Gardens) around the base of your tree. Best to apply this in May to early June: provides 12-month insect protection. For trees already infested, seek treatment from professional tree experts. They can provide a stronger solution to combat the infestation by either treating the soil and roots or injecting a systemic protection directly into the trunk. Our friends at Bartlett Tree Experts (215.249.1819) and Brooks & Barber (215.345.6969) are available to help… If the Ash trees are experiencing grave die back, then they need to be cut down and removed. The wood becomes brittle and increases the chances of the tree falling.

Are there alternatives to Ash trees for my landscape?

Yes! There are many wonderful deciduous shade trees available at Bucks Country Gardens that can either replace current Ash trees or be planted in place of that you will enjoy for many years to come. Sugar Maple, Ginkgo, Black Gum, Dawn Redwood, Sweet Gum, Silver Linden and more. Our knowledge nurserymen are happy to assist in selecting the right tree for your needs.

It’s only a matter of time before the effect of the Emerald Ash Borer on the general landscape in our region is truly known. Maintaining the health of Ash trees with good cultural practices including pruning, fertilization, proper mulching and irrigation during dry periods will help reduce stress and improve the tolerance of trees to borer attacks.

Adriene Vesci | Graphic Design & Advertising Coordinator
Additional information provided by Bartlett Tree Experts