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The emerald ash borer (EAB) is on its way to Rye and the effects could be ugly. First discovered in the United States in 2001, this tree-eating pest arrived accidentally in wood crates from Asia. Since then it has spread to nearly every state and is estimated to have already decimated 50 million ash trees. This could have a devastating effect on the trees of our area, as white, blue, and black ash trees comprise 13%-20% of the tree canopy of Westchester County. The emerald ash borer has been detected in Greenwich, so it is time we in Rye take action to protect our trees.

Frazer Pehmoeller, an arborist with Bartlett Tree Experts, is concerned. Known by many in Rye, he has been caring for Westchester trees for the past 28 years and leads Bartlett’s collaboration with the Friends of Rye Town Park. Earlier this year he donated services to prune the trees and shrubs surrounding the Rye Free Reading Room.

In a program co-sponsored by the Rye Garden Club and the Rye Sustainability Committee on February 2 at the Rye Free Reading Room, Pehmoeller addressed the threats to trees in Westchester and how we can protect them.

The evening began with the film “Trees in Trouble,” a short documentary about the devastating effect of the emerald ash borer on the city of Cincinnati. What funds were put to the problem went to removing dead trees, with very little budgeted to protective measures. Some streets lost every single tree lining the roadway. Homeowners lost countless trees on their properties.

One of the difficulties with the EAB is that by the time you see the damage to the tree and/or see the insects, it is too late to save the tree. The EAB female lays eggs beneath the bark. The larvae feed under the bark in the cambial tissue of the tree. Their burrowing disrupts the tree’s ability to absorb and transfer nutrients and water. By the time this larvae hatches into the bugs one can see, the tree is dying. Preventative measures are a must.

In a lively and informative discussion that followed the film, Pehmoeller detailed what we can do to protect the trees of Rye.

  • Get a tree inventory. Have an arborist help you map the trees on your property so you know what you have. This is important for the city to do for civic properties.
  • Develop a long-term care plan for your trees, as the Friends of Rye Town Park have done. This means pruning them, keeping in mind the pests and diseases that can harm different types of trees and treating trees that are susceptible to diseases and pests. You can spread the work you need to do over time.
  • If you have ash trees, it is time to protect them so they can ward off the EAB. Trees can be inoculated with pesticides that prevent the emerald ash borer from feeding. There is a chemical option and an organic option.
  • Plant trees and keep biodiversity in mind. Planting a diverse variety of trees will not only create a healthy ecosystem on your property, but will ensure that some trees remain even when a pest or disease attacks.
  • Plant native trees whenever possible. Fraser recommends oaks, sugar maples, red maples if you have wet property, beech trees (but make sure to invest in their care), and the white birch. The ash is a wonderful tree to plant but will need inoculations over time.

Pehmoeller concluded the evening with a reminder of the value of trees. Along with their essential roles as habitat and food for animals in a healthy ecosystem, we often take trees for granted and forget they provide so much for human health. They are necessary for clean air, storm water management, and keeping our communities shaded and cool. Time in nature and among trees contributes to human wellbeing. Trees deserve our care and give back to us in so many ways.

The Rye Sustainability Committee has created a Tree Fund for the City of Rye. Contributions will be put towards planting and caring for the trees of Rye. Learn more at


Arborist Frazer Pehmoeller flanked by Rye Garden Club President Julia Burke and Rye Sustainability Committee President Sara Goddard

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