NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Michael Davie with Bartlett Tree Experts doesn't shy away from describing the potential impacts of a particular danger making its way through middle Tennessee.
"It's going to be devastating," Davie says. "Widespread devastation, really."
The danger, he says, involves a foreign beetle called the emerald ash borer and a tree so common in Tennessee that many people don't realize they have one in their own backyard: the ash tree.
Davie, along with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, are sounding the alarm about the invasive species, as its presence in middle Tennessee is now becoming more apparent. The emerald ash borer was first discovered in east Tennessee in 2010.
As its name suggests, the beetle will bore through the bark of ash trees and create channels between the tree's bark and tissue, eventually killing the trees.
The state released some alarming figures related to the emerald ash borer: it says all untreated ash trees in Davidson county will be dead or dying by next year, and within three years, the beetle will have destroyed nearly 13% of middle Tennessee's entire tree canopy.
"These are very commonly yard trees, they're all over the place," Davie said. "People are not going to realize how many places they are until there are dead trees all over."
While a tree can be impacted by the emerald ash borer months earlier, the first sign of trouble usually comes at the tree's top; as the tree begins to die, it can't carry water all the way up, and the tops begin to go bare, even in the middle of summer.
Davie says the ash trees become ticking time bombs once they die. The trees are often quite large, and often are found among neighborhood homes, standing tall just until the next strong windstorm.
"They can just break off at the ground level sometimes, which can be catastrophic," Davie said.
There is a treatment, if the signs of infestation are caught early enough. For a tree between two or three feet wide, it can involve a $200-300 injection every few years, or a soil treatment.