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Tenn. could lose 240M ash trees if they go untreated from invasive beetle

Emerald Ash Borer
Posted at 4:59 PM, May 20, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — It's a dire prediction. Experts believe we could lose 3% of all of Tennessee's trees in the next five years due to an invasive beetle called the Emerald Ash Borer. "Unfortunately they can’t all be saved," said Chad Griffith, a plant health specialist with Bartlett Tree Experts. "I’ve seen them decline fairly quickly once they’ve been infested."

The Emerald Ash Borers are prolific breeders and feast on ash trees. There can be several in most yards and more than 240 million across Tennessee. All of them could be dead by 2026 if gone untreated. "In my professional lifetime, this will be the biggest issue I deal with," said Jennifer Smith, a horticulturist for Metro Public Works.

When it comes to a solution, Smith says a starting point is education. That's why she's leading monthly online seminars to spread the word. She says these are the options for homeowners with ash trees. "Treat it, have it cut down or let it fall. Each one is unique and has different issues associated with it," said Smith.

The most effective treatment for ash trees is injecting an insecticide called Emamectin Benzoate straight into the tree trunk. "It will feed on the pesticide and it’ll wipe them out," said Griffith.

So far, it's working. "Two years ago, we treated these and they seem to be responding pretty well," said Griffith, pointing out two ash trees that have been under their care for years.

But that's also one of the drawbacks -- homeowners will have to be ready to repeat this operation every two to three years for the life of the tree. Not to mention the cost. "Unfortunately, having your tree removed is expensive and treating your tree is expensive," said Smith.

Then, of course, that's a lot of trees to treat with only so many certified to do it.

Still, like any good doctor would tell you, Griffith wants to give as many patients as possible a fighting chance. "If it’s a big tree and you want to keep it around a lot longer, I would consider treating it for sure," he said.

For more guidance about how to protect your trees from the Emerald Ash Borer -- click here.