Contractors working for the state Department of Environmental Conservation will cut down 17 mature oak trees infected with oak wilt in a Glenville neighborhood on Tuesday.
The trees from the Glen Oaks neighborhood are expected to be removed in one day and the stumps treated with a pesticide to prevent the lethal fungus from spreading through the root system. DEC officials intend to continue monitoring all remaining oaks in the neighborhood for symptoms of the disease over the next several growing seasons.
A concerned resident alerted DEC of the infection by providing oak samples that tested positive for the disease in October.
In November, DEC officials estimated about 30 trees would need to be removed to prevent the spread of the disease. But this figure has since been reduced to 17.
The oak wilt fungus grows in the tree’s water-conducting tissues, causing gummy plugs that stop nutrients. The disease can kill a tree in as little as three weeks.
The fungus is most prevalent in Central and Midwestern states and first appeared in New York at the Glen Oaks neighborhood in 2008. All oak species in the state are susceptible, with those belonging to the red oak group being least resistant.
Long-distance spread of oak wilt most often occurs through the nitidulid beetle, a sap-feeding insect attracted by the almost fruity smell of the fungus. When an oak branch is broken — from pruning or storm damage — the fungus-carrying beetles are naturally attracted to the tree’s sap. Among oaks in close confines, the fungus can be spread through grafted root systems, even after the disease has killed its initial host. The fungus can remain active for up to four years in dead oaks, so the trees can’t even be saved for firewood.
The eradication effort in Glen Oaks led to roughly 75 infected trees being toppled and 45 stumps ground away. The state-funded removal in 2009 cost $190,000, but appeared to stop the disease.