The prognosis is bleak for Buffalo Grove’s ash trees, village officials learned Monday.
Village crews have inspected about 1,000 ash trees thus far, Deputy Public Works Director Richard Kuhl said. All were infested with the emerald ash borer, an insect whose larvae feed beneath the tree bark.
The emerald ash borer infestation was confirmed in Illinois in 2006, and was found at the east end of Buffalo Grove in 2009. At that time, there were about 7,000 ash trees on parkways and other public areas in the village. Today, the village has about 5,900 trees that could be treated, but it's likely too late to save them, Kuhl said.
“We’re probably 100 percent infested,” he said.
Not included in that count are 450 to 500 ash trees on the village’s golf courses, or trees on private property, which he estimated could number 14,000.
“This is obviously a big issue for the village,” Village Manager Dane Bragg said.
It’s hard to detect the insects initially, Kuhl said, because they begin feeding on treetops. Even as the infestation worsens, a tree can appear healthy to the untrained eye.
“As the tree dries out, you’re going to have catastrophic changes to the tree, where in the middle of the day, a big branch could fall off … no sign, no wind, it just falls,” he said.
Village staff has treated just six ash trees, all on the municipal campus. But chemical treatment only slows the damage, Kuhl said, and could be cost-prohibitive. He said it would cost the village $464,639 to treat the remaining trees every two years, and treatment would have to continue for the life of the tree. He said he’s working with a grower to determine whether it could provide Buffalo Grove with 1,400 new trees for the next five years, to replace the infested ash trees.
A single village crew could remove 700 ash trees in a year, Kuhl said. Stump removal is the most time-consuming part of the process, he said.
Village officials made no decisions Monday on how to proceed. "We do anticipate an expedited schedule for removals based on what we know at this point," Bragg said.
Informational materials containing tips on how to identify an emerald ash borer infestation and stop the spread are available in the lobby of Village Hall. Bragg said such materials will continue to be made available in the coming months, and community meetings will be scheduled to help keep residents apprised.
Residents can request that Public Works crews inspect their trees for emerald ash borer. Removal, however, remains the homeowner’s responsibility.