That pest was the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) Agrilus planipennis. County Extension Hotlines and Professional Arborists began to get calls about Ash trees that were dropping leaves and dying for no apparent reason. I had firsthand knowledge of this situation as I had two Green Ash trees in my yard that were displaying the same symptoms. Dieback began at the top of the canopy and worked its way downward.
Entomologists from Michigan State University and the U.S. Forest Service were called in and finally identified the problem. An immediate quarantine of six southeastern Michigan counties was implemented with hopes of stopping the spread of the EAB. It was initially thought that this insect was only capable of flying a half-mile per year.
I was fortunate or maybe unfortunate enough to be heavily involved with Michigan State University Extension Service through my volunteer work with the Master Gardeners.
Educational programs were quickly put together to instruct the public about this pest and encourage them not to move firewood outside of the quarantine zones. We were speeding the word via, newspapers, television, radio--anyway we could.
Sadly it was too little too late, experts were amazed at the speed at which the EAB was moving.
It was moving not only by flight, but by folks hauling infested firewood to their cottages. It was also hitching rides on nursery trees and logs for lumber.
Many of the subdivisions built in the 1960s and '70s had been landscaped exclusively with ash trees. They make great street trees, nice shape and fast-growing. By 2005 most of these trees had succumbed and these subdivisions looked like war zones with dead trees for block after block.
When the EAB was initially discovered, most governmental and university sources believved it was was 100% fatal. The only control was to cut the tree down and "chip" it to ensure the bugs were dead. Later they discovered that the EAB could survive a "chipper". However progress was being made quickly in controlling the EAB.
In 2004 soil drenches of imidacloprid began to show promise of eradicating the EAB. As of today this product seems to be very effective at controlling this pest. There are also products available that are injected directly into the tree that are quite effective.
The EAB has infected Ash trees in 14 states and Canada. After arriving in Michigan, it has traveled as far west as Missouri, Iowa, and Minnesota, as far south as Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia, and east to New York and Pennsylvania, including all of the states in between.
If you have an ash that begins to drop leaves or wilts or if you see a tree with these symptoms in a park or other area, let someone know. These trees can be saved. You now have a defense that those of us in Michigan didn't have back in 2002. Of the millions of ashes that grew in Michigan I estimate that 95% have been lost to the EAB. Don't let that happen to your trees.
My thanks to Dr. David Roberts of Michigan State University (The EAB GURU) for of this information. Dr. Roberts spearheaded much of the research in control of this pest.