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Gurnee foresters give boost to ash trees

Gurnee arborist Karl Davis walks along Chapel Hill treash trees with emamectbenzoate help them resist infestatiby emerald ash borers. |

Gurnee arborist Karl Davis walks along Chapel Hill to treat ash trees with emamectin benzoate to help them resist infestation by emerald ash borers. | Thomas Delany Jr.~Sun-Times Media

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Confirmed emerald ash borer infestations in Lake County according to the Illinois Department of Agriculture:

Beach Park, Waldo Avenue 09/11/2008

Buffalo Grove, Barclay Boulevard 09/18/2009

Deerfield, Laurel Avenue 03/18/2011

Gurnee, Pine Meadow Court 01/03/2011

Hawthorn Woods, Birch Lakes Road and High Point Circle 05/25/2011

Highland Park, Oakmont Road 10/10/2010

Lake Forest, Juno Terrace, 03/26/2009

Lake Zurich, Pine Tree Row, 03/02/2011

Libertyville, Mayfair Drive 06/14/2010

North Barrington, Cloverhill Lane 03/02/2011

Riverwoods, West Course Drive 05/18/2011

Round Lake, Spring Valley Way 01/27/2010

Vernon Hills, Greenleaf Drive and Emerson Place 08/04/2010

Wauconda, West Liberty Street 01/28/2011

Barrington Hills Lake-Cook Road and Ridge 07/01/2009

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Updated: May 9, 2012 9:35AM

Gurnee foresters are giving a boost to ash trees with an injection that will help them ward off emerald ash borer larvae that are killing hundreds of trees in town.

The forestry teams are using an inoculation called TREE-age where they drill holes in the base of a tree, put in plugs, then inject the plugs with the chemical that kills the larvae already inside the bark and kills the bugs as they try to burrow into the tree.

“We’re hoping to get out in front of the infestation,” said Jake Balmes, village forester for the Gurnee Public Works Department.

At this point it looks like there are five subdivisions in the middle part of the village that have active infestations, including as Spruce Point and Boulder subdivisions. Trying to find the bug is hard because the larvae are small and do their damage under the bark. They look for cracked bark or a thinning of the canopy. Normally when you look up under an ash tree you can’t see the sky. Stressed trees have less leaves and smaller leaves than normal.

“It’s a daunting task to see which trees have it and which don’t,” said Balmes.

Work crews first discovered the extent of the infestation last December when they were taking down a branch and a worker saw that the bark was coming off. He peeled it back and found “feeding galleries” of larvae. They also found signs of woodpeckers pecking at the wood to get at the larvae.

Since then, “We’ve been trying to get a handle on how wide spread the infestation has advanced,” Balmes said.

There are some trees they know are already dead and will have to be removed, but right now they have perfect conditions: sunny, cool and good ground moisture, for feeding the trees TREE-age.

They have just short of 3,500 ash trees in the village’s parkways (out of 11,000 trees total) and even more in the parks and natural areas around the village. Treatments cost about $30 to $35 per 10-inch tree and that includes labor and equipment costs, like the gun that injects the chemical through the plug into the tree.

The village has budgeted $100,000 and they estimate it will cost about $30,000 to do half the trees this year, which includes buying the equipment, and the rest next year. The inoculation lasts two to three years if the canopy is only 30 to 50 percent decimated.

“I think it is far more widespread than people think because it is so hard to see,” Balmes said. “We’re trying to get out in front of the infestation.”

Part of the budget will be used to purchase replacement trees like oak and Kentucky coffee trees, among others. “We’re trying to diversify,” he said.

To add insult to injury, the cold wet spring has caused a lot of trees, including ash, to get leaf fungus, which can stress a tree. “If the tree is already stress (from ash borer), it’s just like piling on,” said Balmes.

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