Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Small Pest, Big Potential Problems the Emerald Ash Borer Is Destroying Pennsylvania's Ash Trees and Creating Possible Hazards in the Process

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Small Pest, Big Potential Problems the Emerald Ash Borer Is Destroying Pennsylvania's Ash Trees and Creating Possible Hazards in the Process

Article excerpt

Ken Danchik noticed that the leaves on the ash trees in his wooded O'Hara back yard were thinning six years ago.

A quick Web search indicated that his trees might be infested with emerald ash borers, insects that feed on ash trees and were first found in Pennsylvania in 2007. Just a year after Mr. Danchik first read about the ash-ravaging insect, a number of the ash trees in his yard were clearly dying. By 2011, Mr. Danchik said, they were all "completely dead."

As ash borers continue to infest trees across the state, the number of living ash trees in the region is dwindling. Throughout parks, along streets and in private back yards, the trees are dying.

Pennsylvania at one point had 300 million ash trees. In 2005, roughly 400 of Pittsburgh'?s street trees were ash, and now, "for the most part, they are dead or near death," said Matt Erb, director of urban forestry for the advocacy group Tree Pittsburgh.

Mr. Danchik had his property surveyed and his ash trees taken down two years ago, prompted by fear that they would fall on someone; children play in the woods and Mr. Danchik and his wife hike there. But he's worried that dying trees elsewhere pose hazards.

"I'?m concerned about these trees falling," Mr. Danchik said. "We'?re going to get a wind storm some day, and we'?re going to get a whole bunch of trees coming down."

Lisa Ceoffe, a forester with the city, said she is not aware of any recent instances of ash trees falling on people or causing injury. Officials are working to remove potentially hazardous trees in parks and along roads and to respond quickly to complaints alerting them to problem trees, she said.

Still, Philip Gruszka, director of park management and maintenance for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, said the area'?s ash trees could be dangerous, especially those on private property if homeowners fail to take down the dead or dying trees in their yards.

Biology itself suggests that they could present a problem: Ash trees fall more quickly after death than many other trees, "the other kind of alarming side of the story," said Mr. Gruszka. A dead oak may remain standing for 10 to 15 years, while an ash will be on the ground in four years, he said. …

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