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Shade Tree Commission spreads word on invasive tree insect

Emerald Ash Borer kills trees and causes their premature death

There are an abundance of ash trees in Haddonfield, including this one featured at Green Acres Soccer Field on March 21. (EMILY LIU/The Sun)

Spring is here, and with trees soon showing their leaves, the Haddonfield Shade Tree Commission wants to spread awareness of the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive pest from Asia that is killing ash trees. 

Commissioner Frank Troy previously cited the insect as one of the reasons Public Works began taking down dead trees in February and will continue into April. Haddonfield has an abundance of ash trees that have fallen prey to the insect in the last couple of years, causing them to die prematurely and at a faster rate than the borough can keep up with. The trees become a hazard when they die because they become brittle and fall apart easily. 

Shade Tree Commissioner and Haddonfield Branch Manager Jane Elkis Berkowitz encourages residents to check their yards for the tree, which can be identified by compound leaves that grow opposite each other, as well as branches that do the same. For every branch that shoots out, there is usually one growing on the other side. 

“I suggest anybody who has a tree in their yard should identify (it) to see if it is an ash,” Elkis Berkowitz advised. “If it’s in good condition and a resident wants to save it – because takedown is very possible, too – they need to do an economic and aesthetic assessment to determine whether to keep the tree and the price of saving it versus cutting it down.”

Once an ash tree is identified, the next step is to check its condition to see if it has been infected with the borer. According to Elkis Berkowitz, a tree can fall apart as soon as two to three years after infection. If it is in good or excellent condition, it can be treated with pesticide to ward off borers.

Residents would need to contact an arborist with a pesticide license to help treat an infected  tree, done by drilling small holes at its base and injecting pesticide every two years. The cost will depend on the size of the tree; preventative treatment is typically done in the late spring, when trees take nutrients to their canopies.

“There is a way to save (ash trees) against the Emerald Ash Borer,” Elkis Berkowitz noted. “It’s not 100 percent, but it’s very effective.”

Unlike lanternflies, the borer is less visible because it lives beneath the bark. One thing to look out for when a tree’s leaves start coming is its canopy.

“If it has a full canopy of leaves, it’s healthy,” Elkis Berkowitz explained. “If the tree is showing stress, it will have dieback (a kind of receding hairline for trees), so it won’t have a full canopy.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture lists yellow, thin or wilted foliage, an unusual woodpecker presence with pecking holes, D-shaped beetle exit holes, and shoots growing from roots or a tree’s trunk – often with larger than normal leaves – as signs of infestation or distress. 

If the tree is infected, residents should consider removing it if it’s considered hazardous, which means there is a valuable target beneath it. 

To learn more, visit the Department of Agriculture’s website at https://bit.ly/3iwHDl9. The Shade Tree Commission also has information on ash tree identification at http://www.haddonfieldnj.org/boards_and_committees/shade_tree_commission/index.php.


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