The village’s ash trees are in trouble.
Actually, trees are just plain taking a hit in the Northeast. Period.
But right now, the Bellport Garden Club is concentrating on ash trees; there are 20 that can be treated and saved if enough funds are raised to address them. About 40 were planted since the early 1990s; 20 have been lost.
It’s a call to arms for trees.
“We need donations,” said Sherry Binnington and Evonne Hammond, who were sitting under one by the gazebo that can use help.
True to the mission, Hammond wore a sweater with a sewed-on applique of oak, copper beech and ash tree leaves. Binnington and Hammond are on the beautification committee of the Bellport Garden Club.
There were two removed by Chase Manhattan Bank, as well as two by the cement sidewalk on Bell Street. “Once they start to show they’re dying, you can’t save them,” Hammond said.
Signs of infestation include dead branches near the top and tiny branches emerging, called suckers. “It means the tree is trying to recover.”
The culprits are emerald ash borer beetles; they look like short, fat, green worms, smaller than a nickel. But you won’t see them. They enter a tree though crevices in the bark, make circular wormy tracts under it, and feed on the tree’s inner tissues; they also disrupt a tree’s ability to transport water and nutrients.
Bellport Public Works superintendent Jason Crane first noticed the trees weren’t right. “Late spring early summer, we noticed they were dying while we were driving around,” Crane said. “I spoke to an arborist and he informed me they had the emerald ash bore beetle. He said they came in from wood pallets from the Great Lakes.” Crane also noted Bartlett pear trees were suffering.
The garden club hired Okula Tree Care Inc. of Center Moriches for systematic injection treatment of the salvageable ash trees for the spring of 2021. “It depends on the size of the tree, but the average cost is $300,” Hammond said.
“We did a lot of investigating,” added Binnington of their research.
NYS-certified arborist Paul Okula, of Okula Tree Care Inc. of Center Moriches, was asked if this was a widespread infestation on the South Shore.
“We go from Sayville to Southampton, but haven’t seen anything like this until this episode came up,” said Okula.
Okula explained the treatment process. “We drill a three-eighths of a hole about two inches deep and insert a plug with an O ring; then we insert a needle and the injection shoots chemicals within,” he said. “We measure the circumference to see how many holes we need to drill and how many milliliters are needed. It lasts for two years.”
The plan is to treat the salvageable trees next spring as the borers aren’t active from September to May.
But since the Bellport Garden Club was unable to have their fundraiser because of COVID restrictions, donations are needed to help with treating the 20 trees, and to replace them.
Hammond also wants to get the word out because “we didn’t go on private property to assess ash trees and people need to know about the borers.”