I can still remember the first time I heard about Emerald Ash Borer. It was November of 2002 and I was on a consultation with a residential client, Mrs. Zimmerman in West Chicago. She was concerned about her declining Ash tree. I always said, even back then, that Mrs. Zimmerman forgot more about trees than I had known at that point in time. She informed me that there was an insect killing Ash trees in Michigan called the Emerald Ash Borer. I had never heard of it and didn’t even think twice even after she told me. I recommended pruning out the deadwood and root feeding this tree.
A week or so later, we showed up to prune this tree.”We” refers to me and my 17 year old brother Steve Graf – we were the tree crew at the time. Unbeknownst to me on this cold damp morning , Mrs. Zimmerman took the liberty of contacting the Illinois Department of Agriculture and had them come out to the site to check for the possibility of EAB. An official from the Department of Ag showed up with a binder full of pictures of the Michigan destruction. We sat in the back alley and studied pictures of signs and symptoms to be on the lookout for. I climbed up the tree and pruned out some deadwood that we peeled the bark to look for larvae. We found nothing. After he left, we just kind of thought, “boy, that must suck to be up in Michigan right now...” and went on our way not really thinking we would ever have to deal with this problem.
Now, fast forward to June 9th 2006. I remember this day too. We heard from a friend of ours in the industry that the EAB was discovered in Illinois. In Illinois! But where?!!! Right here in St.Charles. This finding very much changed our attitude about EAB. At that time we had been in business 7 years and had accumulated about 400 residential clients in St. Charles. The previous winter we did a demographic study on our clients and determined that the average amount of trees per client was 11. That made 4400 trees. 20% of that number is 880. This quick math told us that we had 880 Ash trees under our care that were under attack! That didn’t even consider Geneva, Batavia, South Elgin, or Elburn. Well, those of you who may know me, know that I take my job as an arborist very seriously and the thought of standing by and losing 880 of my trees didn’t sit well with me. Neither did it sit well with Rick, our PHC Coordinator. We knew we had to do something.