Peeling bark on a large ash tree is a sign of emerald ash borer infestation.
Peeling bark on a large ash tree is a sign of emerald ash borer infestation. (Ellen Nibali / For The Baltimore Sun)

The bark on my neighbor’s large ash tree is being peeled off. Short bark strips lie all over the ground at the base. Is it squirrels or woodpeckers or a deer rubbing its antlers? Is it something to worry about?

This ash tree is probably infested with emerald ash borer. Woodpeckers strip chunks of bark, looking for the larvae (boring stage). Borers make D-shaped tunnels that are not always clear, but your photo shows one.


Emerald ash borer is a non-native invasive insect which has killed millions of ash trees in the U.S. They are lethal to ash unless the tree is protected by pesticides indefinitely. Unless this is an extremely valuable ash, remove and replant with another native species. As dead ash trees quickly become brittle and hazardous, removal can become more expensive. Try to remove it before it dies or immediately thereafter.

Last summer, cucumber beetles spread bacterial wilt, and my cucumber plants died. This year, can I grow a different vegetable in that raised bed (like pole green beans or tomatoes) or does bacterial wilt still "live" in the soil?

Cucurbit bacterial wilt cannot infect tomatoes or beans. Like many pest diseases and insects, it is specialized and strictly a disease of cucurbits, infecting summer squash, pumpkin and muskmelon as well as cucumbers. However, the adult cucumber beetle will feed on tomatoes or beans.

This is not as serious as the bacterial wilt. There are several strategies to combat cucumber beetles, including exclusion by row cover. Search this topic or look in the Problems section of the HGIC website for help with this and all the other common garden pests.

University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information at extension.umd.edu/hgic. Click “Ask Maryland’s Gardening Experts” to send questions and photos.