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Ash borer news hits home in Naperville
By Stephanie Penick | Daily Herald Columnist

Jack Mitz, Naperville city forester, peels away bark and discovers the telltale serpentine tunnels dug by the Emerald Ash Borer. Infested trees must come down within 10 days and be disposed of under specific guidelines.


Courtesy Stephanie Penick

Emerald ash borers can inhabit a tree for three to five years before the tree shows signs of trouble.


Courtesy James Appleby

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Published: 9/20/2010 9:59 AM

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A few months ago, I started using the computer upstairs in my son's former bedroom where I've enjoyed overlooking the front yard and beyond from its large bay window. When it's sunny, it's good for my disposition.

I've also observed Jack Mitz, the city forester, "watching" the ash tree in the parkway across the street on occasion -- times when my curiosity would get the best of me, drawing me downstairs and outside to ask questions.

On one watch Mitz showed me a sample of ash bark collected from another street, complete with live, creamy white Emerald Ash Borer larvae, carefully contained in a plastic bag. (And the morning after I originally filed this story, city workers cut down the large ash tree in the parkway across the street.)

Fast forward to a recent Friday morning when I e-mailed Mitz to thank him for identifying for us that the ash tree in our side yard is infested with the Emerald Ash Borer. My correspondence also included a small slice of the vast information -- noting sometimes conflicting views -- that I'd accumulated in our quest to find a tree-care service to remove the tree and its stump at our expense in accordance with city codes.

It's age old. Whenever something hits home -- or close to home -- we seek information, get on our soap boxes and try to educate anyone who will listen. So here goes.

Since September 2007, the Daily Herald has published more than 100 articles about the pesky iridescent green beetle with the purplish belly known to arborists as EAB. Stories included facts that the short-lived flying beetle lays 60 to 80 eggs in ash trees. When mature, the beetles burrow D-shaped holes to exit in early summer.

When I called the Department of Public Works to confirm receipt of my e-mail, Laurie Rice initially thought I was calling in regard to a letter she'd prepared a day earlier to inform us that by city code, the tree must come down within 10 days. The following day, a certified letter arrived with a copy of Naperville Municipal Code 4-3-1: Tree diseases, insect infestations and hazardous trees. It's available at

Even though I'd received news releases and knew about the EAB from other stories, the life cycle of the pest and the extent of its destructive nature hadn't soaked in, nor had the specifics of the ordinance. I just hadn't paid attention closely enough. I had attributed our ash tree's slightly weakened condition with limited dieback to the unusual wet/hot weather this summer.

During the week before our contacting tree care professionals for estimates, a certified arborist said the ash tree soon would be entering its dormant stage when the insects go into hibernation.

Much to my surprise, that week bark marks appeared after a feeding frenzy by a woodpecker that I shot with my camera. Slivers of bark at the base of tree resembled potato peels.

Again, I contacted a tree care expert and certified master arborist. The patient folks at the Morton Arboretum directed me to the plethora of information at under "Plant Clinic."

I think it's likely all the ash trees in Naperville are infested at some level because it can take three to five years before serpentine-shaped signs of infestation appear or the ash trees show any signs of stress.

My biggest concern is that if we don't create a bigger awareness regarding the preventive treatment of ash trees in a 15-state region, we will lose about a third of our city's trees. In Naperville, many of the newer subdivisions have just begun to appear established with shade trees and beautiful canopies along neighborhood streets.

On another note, as a member of the Riverwalk Foundation, that week I followed several of the Riverwalk Commissioners during their Friday morning asset management planning meeting. I noted very mature ash trees along the Riverwalk as well.

I'm hopeful residents respond - the sooner the better - with a desire to learn what we as individual property owners can do to save the ash.

I would think there's enough tree-care work to keep a lot of companies busy, perhaps even pooling resources and working together to help economize pricing, to prevent the spread of EAB.

Thanks for helping to heighten awareness about the EAB.

• Stephanie Penick writes about Naperville. E-mail her at