Invasive pest could kill tens of thousands of trees in Nashville

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – An invasive pest threatens the Middle Tennessee landscape.

Discovered in Davidson County just a few years ago and experts say it’s only a matter of time before tens of thousands of trees are lost.

The Emerald Ash Borer’s (EAB) slow march has already reached Davidson County, and now Williamson County.

Having already ravaged trees across the eastern United States, the borer will bring down even the largest of Ash trees, despite being smaller than a penny.

“Our Ash trees have no chemical or physical defense,” explained Neil Letson, with the Metro Tree Advisory Committee. “It’s been a feeding frenzy.”

The EAB comes from the Far East and was likely shipped to the U.S. in the 90’s by mistake.

“It was first confirmed in 2002 in Detroit, Michigan,” said Letson. “From that point in just 15 years, it’s spread across 30 states.”

(Photo: WKRN)

EAB’s have no natural enemy in the states, and wildlife experts have tried releasing Asian wasps to curb their growth.

The problem lies not in the beetle itself, but when it’s in the larvae stage, left to grow up on Ash trees.

“They instinctively drill into the bark,” explained Letson. “They feed on what we call the vascular system of the ash tree.”

Over time, this cuts off water to the tree, eventually leading to its death.

According to state officials, there are an estimated 261 million Ash trees in Tennessee, all of which are susceptible.

Tim Phelps, with the Tennessee Forestry Department, met News 2 at Nipper’s Corner, near a large tree with some troubling symptoms.

“The die back from the top, again that’s one of those tell-tale signs of emerald ash borer,” he noted, studying the tree.

Phelps and other experts agree, when it comes to a widespread EAB infestation in Davidson County, it’s not a matter of if, but when.

This could eventually pose danger to people’s homes, businesses, power lines and more should the trees be left to die and fall.

Metro officials are now trying to get the word out.

“Education, we need our citizens to be informed of this impending threat,” said Letson. “To know if they have an Ash tree on their property, and then know what options they have to deal with it.”

Quick tell-tale signs of an Ash tree with EAB include serpentine marks beneath the bark and D-shaped exit holes in bark

For tips on how to spot an Ash tree on your property, click here for information from Vanderbilt.

Officials say you have three options to deal with EAB in ash trees. Those include, remove the tree, treat the tree with a number of available pesticides. List of pesticides here, from the University of Wisconsin-Extension http://hort.uwex.edu/articles/homeowner-guide-emerald-ash-borer-insecticide-treatments/

If the tree is in a wooded area, or does not pose a threat to the public or other property, you can allow the tree to die if/when it is affected.

State experts say EAB could be widespread in the area as early as 2019-2020.