Ash tree situation doesn't look good

Ash tree situation doesn't look good

First of all, let me say this column is not large enough to do justice to the subject of preservation.

I had coffee this morning with Carl Altstetter, a Master Naturalist, at Le Peep. Alstetter is on a mission to inform the public about an impending problem with our ash trees. He is a lone wolf who has become an expert on the emerald ash borer.

Alstetter has been to 20 small towns in Champaign County from Savoy, population 7,280, to Royal, population 293, plus the Sangamon River Forest Preserve and the Lake of the Woods Golf Course. He has walked streets of these towns with a hand-held GPS device and recorded every ash tree in town.

As we were having coffee, he said he walked that area around Biaggi's and Le Peep, and most of the trees are ash. He predicted all would die from the EAB infection.

The borers were found in Michigan about 10 years ago, worked their way south to northern Indiana and are coming farther south little by little. It is believed that they are transferred by firewood and campers.

They have been found in Fisher, Gifford and on the former Chanute Air Force Base. The holes made by normal borers are round or oval in shape, but the EAB leaves a hole that is like the letter D. It is unmistakable to the naked eye: about a quarter to an eighth of an inch in diameter.

If you have a young ash tree that is not yet affected, it will cost about $30 per year to have it sprayed. That is $300 for a 10-year period. Now think what it will cost the developers around Le Peep, where almost every tree is ash.

If you are like me and remember when the elm tree disease hit Champaign-Urbana, this is probably going to be repeated with the ash tree. As a developer of a commercial area, a golf course, a public park or any other large area, you would be wise not to plant trees that are all alike.

If you are interested in becoming a master naturalist, contact the University of Illinois Extension, 801 N. Country Fair Drive, Suite D, or call 333-7672. Anyone interested in working on the ash borer problem should contact Altstetter at 954-6803 or

The emerald ash borer is metallic green in color and about a half an inch long and an eighth of an inch wide. Borers emerge from May to July, and the female lays eggs in the bark crevices. They hatch in seven to 10 days.

So far, more than 20 million ash trees have been killed in the U.S., so $30 a year is a good investment if you have an ash tree.

Bob Swisher has been a collector since he was a child. Questions or comments can be sent to Swisher by writing to The News-Gazette, P.O. Box 677, Champaign, IL 61824-677 or emailing

Sections (1):Living
Topics (1):Environment

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