The most frequent call the past two weeks has been about ash trees with problems.
Elkhart County residents are reporting ash trees with bark or limbs falling off the tree, a yellow to tan discoloration of the trunk or major limbs, or younger trees with many water sprouts growing from the trunk and limbs. These are all signs the tree is infested with emerald ash borer.
The number of ash trees infested in the community is nearing 100 percent, so the likelihood of having a tree healthy enough to treat is next to nothing at this point. Woodpeckers or woodpecker injury is one sign the trees are heavily infested. Woodpeckers are experts at detecting the ash borer larva as they crawl around under the bark feeding on the cambium (green growth area). The yellow to tan discoloration, often in large patches on the trunk, is a sign that woodpeckers have been hard at work, and that the tree’s days are numbered.
Water sprouts springing out of the trunk and limbs are yet another sign the tree is on its last leg. As the borers feed under the bark, they cut off the water and food supply to upper portions of the tree. In a last-ditch effort to survive, the tree will send out these water sprouts, using the last of its stored food reserves.
Damaged ash trees are amazingly quick to fall apart once they are fully infested. Limbs and bark begin to fall off rapidly compared to other trees when they die, thus becoming a safety hazard. For that reason, it is generally a good idea to remove the ash trees as soon as possible.
I have been asked if there are any government programs or assistance available to remove these dead trees, and I can say I honestly have not found any. When looking for someone to remove a tree, an all-purpose handyman driving around a neighborhood in a pickup truck with a chainsaw and a ladder may not be suitable for work demanding such a high level of responsibility.
Be wary of hiring tree services requesting payment in advance or who wish to begin work without having drawn up a free estimate of the cost. In fact, consumers should demand not only an estimate but also a written contract, laying out precisely what the job entails and for how much. The cost of tree removal can vary from service to service, so it is suggested you get at least two estimates for the job.
Tree removal can be dangerous work. Asking a tree service for proof of insurance is a good idea. Request to see certificates of liability and workman’s compensation insurance, and check that they are current. Phone the insurance company to verify current policy information.