A "substantial" infestation of emerald ash borers has been discovered in three neighborhoods in the Round Lake area, Lake County Forest Preserve District officials said Wednesday.
The wood-devouring beetles have sickened at least 20 trees in the Prairie Point neighborhood, but "hundreds if not thousands" of other trees could also be infested there and in two neighboring subdivisions, said Chuck Myers, the district's assistant superintendent of natural resources.
Myers said he spotted trees with telltale, D-shaped exit holes in the Silver Leaf Glen and Valley Lakes subdivisions during a cursory exploration of the area. All three neighborhoods are along Wilson Road south of Route 134.
"They had clear evidence that they were infested," Myers said.
Forest district staffers discovered the infestation after receiving an e-mail from a concerned resident last week, forest board President Bonnie Thomson Carter said.
"There were adult (beetles) crawling all over the trees," said Carter, an Ingleside Republican whose district includes part of the Round Lake area.
The size of the beetles indicates the pests have been in the area for about five years, Carter said. Ash borer damage may not show up for three to five years after an infestation, experts have said.
The three neighborhoods likely have thousands of ash trees, Myers said. Some trees in the area may look healthy at first glance, but closer examination will show the D-shape exit holes and serpentine larval tracks, he said.
Trees that aren't exhibiting signs of beetle activity may be infested, too, he said.
Myers described the damage as the biggest emerald ash borer infestation he's seen.
"It's going to be devastating," he said.
The beetles have killed 25 million ash trees since first being confirmed in the Midwest eight years ago. Fourteen states and two Canadian provinces have been infested by the ash borer, according to a government- and university-run website called emeraldashborer.info.
In Illinois, the beetles have been detected in 21 counties, including Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will.
Prairie Pointe resident Bryant Magis said he was disappointed about the infestation.
"My wife and I certainly enjoy our trees," said Magis, who lives in a townhouse near the development's main entrance. "Trees definitely add to the value of the property."
Because the Prairie Pointe neighborhood is in an unincorporated area of the county, Carter said the residents will have to develop a plan to replace the damaged ash trees with a resistant variety.
The other two affected neighborhoods are in Round Lake. Village Administrator Marc Huber said the town will replace infected trees on village property "on an as-needed basis." He didn't know if they'd be replaced with ash trees or other varieties.
Round Lake residents who suspect they have infested trees should call a private arborist for further inspection, Huber said. Residents will need to decide on their own what to do with sick trees on their property, he said.