Emerald Ash Borer Treatment options

Although only recently found in Nebraska, the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) was found in the U.S. all the way back in 2002.

Young ash trees at Hawthorne Park near 180th & Q


Upon arrival as a non-native pest, the Emerald Ash Borer held two strong advantages:

  1. North American ash species had not yet developed genetic resistance.
  2. We (humans) had no experience managing the damage they can cause.
"S" shaped galleries caused by EAB larvae feeding on the thin, delicate, vascular structure just below the bark of an ash tree.

Since then, however, we humans have gone to great lengths to develop effective treatment options aimed at killing EAB & saving our favorite, high-value ash trees.

Mature ash trees provide excellent shade that can MEASURABLY reduce residential energy consumption.

Options For Treatment Include:

  1. Basal Trunk Spray: A water-soluble pesticide is administered at high concentrations directly onto the bark of an ash tree. With a little help from what is known as a "surfactant," the pesticide penetrates the bark and is drawn into the vascular tissue upon which the EAB larvae feed.
  2. Systemic Trunk Injection: This method is often compared to a flu shot for your tree. First, several holes are drilled radially into the base of the tree. Next, pesticide is force fed through the holes & into the tree's vascular tissue.
  3. Root-Zone Soil Injection: A water-soluble pesticide is administered at high pressure 2-4 inches below the soil and within 18 inches of the trunk (where root density is highest.) Absorbed non-invasively along with the water, the larvae-killing pesticide is transported through the vascular tissue of the tree.
In order from left to right: Basal Trunk Spray, Systemic Injection, Root-Zone Soil Injection.

Which Method is Best?

At Great Plains Tree Care, we have opted to focus on Root-Zone Soil Injections. Based on all the research available, we have found it to be the method that best balances effectiveness with longevity.

Why Not Trunk Injections?

The single most reason we have opted to not focus on trunk injections is because of the damage that they do to the tree. Trunk injections are a very effective solution to many tree conditions, but due to the repeated treatments necessary with Emerald Ash Borer, the damage from the treatments alone could end up causing death of the ash tree.

Source: Nebraska Arborists Association

Healing The Wound

Because open wounds to trees can be a source of infection & disease, trees have developed a defensive healing response. The barrier created by this response seals off the tree's storage space for food. This greatly reduces a tree's ability to respond to stress.

Source: Nebraska Arborists Association

A Temporary Solution

The chemical emamectin benzoate has been proven to be the most lethal pesticide to Emerald Ash Borer larvae, killing close to 100%. The only problem is that this specific chemical can only be administered via systemic injection. Because of it's effectiveness, the City of Lincoln Nebraska has opted to use emamectin benzoate injections but only as a temporary solution. When ash trees die, they are particularly brittle and prone to breaking, making them a hazard to the public. The city does not have the resources to remove all ash trees this year before they begin to weaken, so it has opted to temporarily delay death using systemic injections. City officials aren't worried about the damage caused by drilling and injecting because they only need a temporary solution.

Non-Invasive Root-Zone Soil Injections

Although Treatments with Root-Zone Soil Injections require annual application, they are the best long-term solution for those who intend to save their ash trees instead of just simply delaying their death. The injections in this method are non-invasive to the tree and do not injure the it during application like trunk-injections.

An ash-lined street in regency being treated with our non-invasive root-zone injection.


A newly developed treatment known as DINOTEFURAN, was developed specifically to better combat Emerald Ash Borer. It is a chemical that is similar in structure and mode-of-action to nicotine. It is toxic to EAB larvae under the bark & also adults that try to ingest ash tree leaves. Before dinotefuran was available, the pesticide of choice was called imidacloropid. The newer chemical is now much more water soluble, allowing it to move throughout the tree with much more ease.

Don't wait to treat until symptoms appear

Longitudinal Study By Purdue University

Research has shown that by the time symptoms are visible, canopy loss increases at an exponential rate.

If you realize the value of your ash tree, it is essential to take action now. Early Spring is the most effective time to apply a treatment but late-summer to mid-fall applications will help your ash survive until you can begin your annual applications in the spring.

Call to initiate your Emerald Ash Borer treatment plan & save your ash today!


Created with images by waitscm - "Emerald Ash Borer tree" • jhritz - "Beauty in Death" • Hans - "leaves green tree"

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