The Emerald Ash Borer has destroyed more than 20 million ash trees in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana since it was first discovered near Detroit in 2002. The Asian beetle has been migrating east and was found in Cuyahoga County for the first time last month. Two east side suburbs are leading the way in preparing for an invasion of the pest, but they're taking dramatically different approaches. ideastream's Mhari Saito reports.
Shaker Heights forester Pat Neville traveled to Toledo last June to learn about the city's experience with the Emerald Ash Borer. City workers showed him neighborhoods where blocks of infected ash trees were being removed.
Pat Neville: It was amazing how much damage these bugs were doing to these mature 20- to 30-inch caliper trees.
Neville said the visit left him determined to prepare Shaker Heights for the worst. So for the next five years, Shaker will remove 1,800 ash trees - 9% of the city's total tree population - and replant them with different species.
Pat Neville: When the beetle comes to Shaker - it's not a question of if, it's when - we'll have already been replacing our trees.
Neville says the city's ash tree removal plan, including salaries, will cost $215,000 a year for the next five years.
Just down the road, neighboring Beachwood has decided to try and save it's 900 ash trees and the high cost of removing them. Service Director Dale Pekarek says promising new research convinced them to treat their Ash trees this past fall with the pesticide Merit. The price: $2,700.
Dale Pekarek: It was at least a 50/50 shot for our smaller trees, which most of ours are smaller. So, it would be illogical for me to go to the mayor, or the residents, and say we're not going to spend $2,700 to try and save 900 trees. I just couldn't see us doing that.
Pekarek says Beachwood will treat the ash trees again in the spring and then annually after that. Dan Balser at the Ohio Department of Forestry says the jury's still out on the long term effectiveness of known pesticides against the Emerald Ash Borer.
Dan Balser: Nobody's really sure if annual treatment will save the tree or simply just postpone when the tree will eventually die.
Beachwood's Pekarek admits the Merit might not work, and that in the worst case scenario the city's ash trees would have to be cut down. But he says the Ash Borer kills trees over a long enough period of time that the city could handle the job of removal.
Dale Pekarek: I don't believe I'm going to leave work one night and all the trees are alive and I'm going to come in to work the next morning and have 900 addresses piled on my desk saying you gotta cut these trees down today.
Forestry experts say Northeast Ohio could have an Emerald Ash Borer infestation within the next five years. I'm Mhari Saito, 90.3.