BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The emerald ash borer (EAB), an invasive insect native to Asia that has killed hundreds of millions of ash trees (Fraxinus species) has now been found in Union County. Three years ago, as the insect was found in other counties, Berkeley Heights took action to protect ash trees in the municipality and applied for a Community Forestry Grant to treat ash trees along the right of way.
This year Berkeley Heights is continuing treatment and has awarded a contract to Keiling Tree Care of Basking Ridge. The company has a website, employs a certified tree expert, and holds a pesticide license.
“The company was the low bidder,” said Environmental Commissioner Richard Leister, “and meets all the qualifications for the work.”
Ash trees can be infested by the emerald ash borer years before the tree begins to show symptoms of infestation, which begins when female beetles lay eggs on the bark of ash trees. The eggs hatch and larvae bore into the bark to vessels underneath that carry fluid.
As the larvae feed and develop, they cut off the flow of nutrients, eventually killing the tree within three to five years. Symptoms of infestation include canopy dieback, woodpecker activity, missing bark, D-shaped exit holes, shoots sprouting from the trunk, and S-shaped larval galleries under the bark. The ash borer has killed hundreds of millions of trees in North America.
If an ash tree is already infested or in poor health, it may be best to remove the tree before it poses a hazard to people and surrounding structures, according to the NJ DEP. Communities, businesses, and residents with high-value, healthy ash trees can treat the trees before any infestation occurs.
Anyone who sees emerald ash borer or suspected evidence of tree damage is urged to call the New Jersey Department of Agriculture as soon as possible at (609) 406-6939 or a DEP forest health specialist at (609) 984-3861.
Several insecticide options are available to protect landscape ash trees threatened by EAB. A Certified Tree Expert or Forester who holds a pesticide license can help evaluate, treat, or remove infested ash trees. Check https://njtreeexperts.org for a list of tree professionals serving your area.
"Not all ash trees along the right of way are treated," said Richard Leister. "Small ash trees will be removed and any large ash trees that may be compromised will be marked for removal."
Here’s how to identify an ash tree:
The ash borer is about ½” long and ⅛” wide.