CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) – It’s the size of a dime but can take down a huge ash tree in no time by digging its way into the living part of the tree.
“It will eat it, making it impossible for the tree to transport water and sugar, hence why they die,” said Kendall Topping, a Virginia Department of Forestry Community Specialist for Hampton Roads.
Emerald ash borers aren’t from the United States.
“It’s an invasive insect that came here from Asia,” Topping said. “Most likely, accidentally, through infested wood like in crates that came from shipping,” Topping said.
That’s why the trees in the U.S. are basically defenseless against invasive species.
“They never evolved how to defend themselves from it, so they are completely helpless,” Topping said.
Emerald ash borers were first spotted in Michigan. The beetle killed around 40 million trees there.
The pest has made its way down the coast, even spotted as close as Newport News and Gloucester.
If we don’t do anything about the invasive species, it could be bad for Hampton Roads.
Topping said ash trees help with “stormwater infrastructure, cleaning the air, increasing property value, the beauty, lower crime, happier people, lower temperatures.”
She said the trees are like living infrastructure that need regular maintenance, like our local bridges or underpasses.
It would also be devastating for the wildlife.
“With those trees, different insects and birds rely on those trees when you get rid of them, it causes a chain reaction,” she said.
The city of Chesapeake is trying to keep the beetle from infesting its trees.
“What we are doing is ensuring they don’t come over here,” said Kevin Kaul, an urban forester with Chesapeake Parks and Recreation.
Fourteen healthy ash trees in the Chesapeake Arboretum have been injected with a pesticide. It shields the trees against emerald ash borers for up to three years.
“The big end result of this project is to stop the spread of emerald ash borers,” Kaul said.
The city will also focus on other areas.
“We also want to protect trees in what we call the target zone,” he said. “Where if it fell down, it’d hit a house.”
You can also play a role in keeping the invasive species out of the area.
First, check if you have ash trees in your backyard. If you do, you can get help from the Virginia Department of Forestry to get the trees injected. The application process starts around spring. For more information, click here.