One of America’s favorite shade trees is being killed by the millions. A tiny invasive insect is to blame. The emerald ash borer has dealt an unexpected blow to cities, homeowners and industries that work with ash trees. The GLRC’s Rebecca Williams reports… the ash borer has been especially devastating to the nursery industry:
One of America’s favorite shade trees is being killed by the millions. A
tiny invasive insect is to blame. The emerald ash borer has dealt an
unexpected blow to cities, homeowners and industries that work with ash
trees. The GLRC’s Rebecca Williams reports… the ash borer has been
especially devastating to the nursery industry:
Everybody thought ash trees were perfect. That’s because they’re great
shade trees, they grow fast, they turn yellow and red and purple in the
fall. Ash trees were the go-to tree for a lot of cities after Dutch elm
disease killed off most of the nation’s elm trees 30 years ago. Scientists
thought ash trees were pretty much invincible to pests.
Then… the emerald ash borer hitched a ride to the States in cargo from
China… and changed everything.
“We couldn’t believe it. It’s like We were stunned, you know, wait a minute,
this is something we can’t even sell anymore.”
Amy Camido is a certified nurseryman. She sells trees and shrubs at Ray
Wiegand’s Nursery. It’s a large nursery outside of Detroit… close to
where the ash borer was first discovered in 2002. In 2003, Michigan
officials banned the sale of all ash trees. That meant nurseries had to cut
down and chip or burn all of their ash tree stock.
“Gosh, when they told us we couldn’t sell them anymore, it was like, pick
them up and put them in the bio-grinder, they were gone. These trees,
they weren’t even trees that were infested.”
Camido says Weigand’s Nursery destroyed 6-thousand trees. That cost
them a half million dollars. She says the nursery lost out on three fronts.
They grew ash trees and they sold them to homeowners and landscapers.
Ray Weigand says the nursery… like many around here… lost a third of
“Once you lose it you lose it. It’s hard to make money up in any
industry. We just plant other products and hope that they bloom out and
people like them.”
Weigand says now… instead of selling lots of the same type of tree…
they’ll have to plant many different species to hedge their bets. Nurseries
also want the federal government to compensate them for their losses,
but that’s looking unlikely. Congress continues to slash funding for
fighting the emerald ash borer… and states are not putting up any extra
Nursery groups say the beetle should be a national priority… because it’s
not just a Midwest issue.
Mark Teffeau is with the American Nursery and Landscape Association.
He says the borer’s hurt sales of ash trees nationwide.
“Right now it’s a buyer’s market. The ash prices have basically plummeted
to the point that I know growers who have realized there’s no market for
these trees and then they’re pulling them up and destroying them. Either
that or trying to sell them at reduced prices in places where ash borer isn’t
The only state that’s banned all sales of ash trees is Michigan, but the ash
borer has also infested trees in Ohio and Indiana. Those states have not
completely banned sales of ash. Instead, they’re restricting sales from
infested areas. Officials in those states say some nurseries are still able
to sell ash trees… but not a lot of people are buying them.
Nursery groups are putting pressure on state and federal officials to keep
the ash borer contained. The beetle only moves about a half mile a year
on its own, but people help it spread a lot farther… by moving firewood
infested with the beetle. Just one piece of infested firewood can start a
Patricia Lockwood is the ash borer policy director for Michigan. She
says states are getting the message out that moving firewood spreads the
“We’re continually on a daily basis outreaching through schools,through the
libraries, we are doing billboards, public service announcements. We
really are outreaching to a tremendous amount of individuals. We never
do enough but we’re doing the best with the resources that we have.”
But even though there are laws against moving firewood, critics say
those messages are not getting through to everyone. Nurseryman Amy
Camido says people don’t seem to care about the ash borer until it affects
“Just as recent as last summer, last fall, people were bringing in branches
and saying, you know this tree isn’t looking as good as it should and I’d
say, ‘you know it’s an ash tree?’ and they’d go, ‘Yeah, so?’ and I say
‘you know about the emerald ash borer problem?’ ‘Nooo…’ ‘Like, how
can you not know? How can you not know??”
Camido says she hopes people in the rest of the country can be spared
losing their ash trees, but she’s not feeling very optimistic these days.
Scientists say a lot’s at stake if the ash borer isn’t stopped. They say if
the beetle spreads throughout the country, more than 8 billion ash trees
will be killed, and they say nurseries, the timber industry and taxpayers
will foot the bill for those losses… running in the hundreds of billions of
For the GLRC, I’m Rebecca Williams.