County employees have been prowling the residential areas near Colvin Run Elementary School. “Various neighbors have seen people walking around and looking at our trees,” said Robert Philip, vice president of the Shouse Village Community Association.
These county workers are identifying ash trees within a half-mile radius of the school. Certain trees will have to be eradicated before spring, due to an infestation of emerald ash borers.
The Asian species of beetle first appeared in Michigan. “They have been in Michigan for a few years,” said Troy Shaw, coordinator of the Fairfax County Pest Program.
The bugs infest ash trees, eventually killing them. They do not attack other types of trees, Shaw said. Ash trees are estimated to comprise 4 percent of the county’s trees.
Some of the infested trees from Michigan were sold to a distributor in Prince George’s County, Md. From there, 16 were planted at Colvin Run. All of them have been removed and destroyed.
County workers noticed the distinctive D-shaped holes made when the adult bugs leave the trees. “They fly around and feed,” Shaw said. “They’ve found that they don’t travel more than half a mile.”
The larvae of the insects live under the bark of the tree. They then bore into the trunk, making them very difficult to kill with insecticide. “There is nothing that is 100-percent effective,” Shaw said.
The only way to be sure that they have been destroyed is to uproot and destroy all the trees, which the county plans to do in late February and early March, before the insects have a chance to spread further.
Approximately 190 ash trees have been identified for removal, most of which are in common residential areas, with some at Wolf Trap National Park. “It can be a very serious pest,” said Bill Crockett, director of the park. Crockett said members of the park staff have not noticed the bug, but they are cooperating with the removal efforts.
The area where the trees will be removed from the park is currently an unmanaged area, not one of the areas that visitors to the park typically frequent. “It shouldn’t be anything that anybody notices,” Crockett said.
Residents in the area are not very frightened by the prospect of the tree removal, Philipp said. He said that 18-20 residents will need to have a tree removed from their property. “Nobody’s extremely panicked by it,” he said.
Residents whose trees are being removed will receive some compensation, Philipp said. “It’s being handled as well as it can be.”
Sample ash trees may be placed throughout the infestation area to determine the effectiveness of the eradication project, Shaw said. “We want to be absolutely sure that we’ve got them all.”