Fermilab aids the fight against little green foe
|Arborist Fredric Miller examines trees near the Fermilab Village for the Emerald Ash Borer.
The invaders first landed in Michigan about a decade ago. Since then the emerald ash borer, a tiny Asian beetle, has killed tens of millions of ash trees across the Midwest and Canada, eating up millions of dollars and invaluable summertime shade.
The plague hit Fermilab's western boundary in 2007; but it hasn't hit the Village's large ash trees yet. That's why Morton Arboretum's Fredric Miller selected the site for an ongoing research project into a new preventative treatment against the green menace.
"This thing is insidious," Miller said. "It can show up anywhere."
In early January, Miller was out in the cold, cutting branches from trees he treated almost two years ago. Michael Pfaff, a senior groundskeeper at Fermilab, said the laboratory has a longstanding partnership with the Arboretum and was happy to lend Miller a hand-and a lift.
"We let him use the bucket truck, since most of what he wants is up in the canopy of the tree," Pfaff said.
Miller is studying a chemical, brand-named TREE-äge (pronounced "triage"), that could make it much easier to keep the hungry beetles at bay. Unlike many current treatments, which must be applied annually, TREE-äge could work for up to three or four years per application, which could mean big savings for property owners.
Miller says the chemical, which is available on the market, hasn't shown any negative effects on surrounding flora and fauna; its only drawback is that it must be applied by professionals-for good reason.
"You have to wound the tree," Miller said. "It's like giving it an IV."
Back in the lab, he's examining the branch samples for larvae. Miller says he has high hopes for the method and is cautiously optimistic. However, field trials have been inconsistent in the past, and he says there's a long way to go.
"You can treat a group of trees in one area and go three blocks over and get a completely different result."
-- Andrea Mustain