Dutch elm disease is caused by a fungus that is spread by bark beetles. Affected trees slowly begin to wilt and die. The disease is very deadly, so proper removal is necessary to prevent it from spreading.
1. Early Detection Saves Trees
Dutch elm disease can sometimes be reversed if you act quickly. If only one or two branches have begun to show signs of infection, promptly pruning these off and disposing of the wood may prevent the fungus from spreading further. After the damaged wood has been removed, the tree must be injected with a fungicide that will prevent the disease from resurfacing somewhere else in the tree.
2. Dead Trees Spread Disease
The death of a tree doesn't mean that Dutch elm disease is no longer a concern. The bark beetles that spread the Dutch elm fungus breed in the bark of dead and nearly dead elm trees, so any dead elm on your property poses the risk of spreading the disease to nearby healthy trees. All dead elms, both those affected and unaffected by Dutch elm disease, need to be promptly removed so that they don't become a breeding ground for future disease. Care must be taken during removal to use proper sanitation so the disease isn't spread to healthy trees, so this type of tree removal is best left to professionals.
3. Reuse Wood Carefully
It is possible to reuse wood from removed trees safely, but only if the bark is first stripped off, and any logs that show signs of beetle activity are properly disposed of or destroyed. Usually, the wood is reserved for firewood use, as mulching it could spread the disease. Another option, if you want to use the logs or wood chips from a fungus-killed elm tree is to heat treat it to kill any beetles or fungal spores. This requires several weeks of hot, sunny days following the tree removal. The wood or chips are covered tightly in a plastic drop cloth and left in the sun for the heat and UV rays to sterilize them.
4. Destroy to Prevent Spread
The best option for the wood after the tree has been removed is to have your tree service handle disposal. In areas where the disease is particularly rampant, it may be necessary to take the wood to a dump to be incinerated or hot composted so that the disease doesn't spread. Don't attempt to compost sawdust or chips from the removed trees in a normal compost pile, as home compost piles rarely get hot enough to kill the disease or beetles that carry it.
Contact a tree removal service if you have more questions.