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Shot At Survival: An Effort To Save The Ash Tree Against A Deadly Beetle

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Asian emerald ash borer
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Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)—They’ve been killing thousands of ash trees in Maryland counties. Baltimore could be next.

Alex DeMetrick reports the city is looking now for a way to minimize the destructive impact of a tiny beetle native to Asia.

It’s estimated there are 6 million ash trees in Maryland. All are vulnerable.

“This is an insect that’s 100 percent fatal to ash trees,” said a Maryland Department of Agriculture entomologist.

It’s the Asian emerald ash borer, and it has been moving steadily through the state, the larval stage eating its way just under the bark, destroying the tree’s vascular system.

“Heavily infested, totally destroyed,” an entomologist said.

The potential dollar loss “we estimate the emerald ash borer could create $227 million of damage in Maryland,” said Buddy Hance, secretary of Maryland Department of Agriculture.

The beetles will eventually reach Baltimore.

“And over a period of years, it will very likely kill the trees, so we want to be proactive,” said Erik Dihle, Baltimore’s chief forester.

One possible way is to kill the larvae where they live, inside the tree. Like an IV rig used in hospitals, a low dose of insecticide developed by a Boston company is injected into the tree’s vascular system.

“It paralyzes them so they stop feeding, and when they stop feeding, they die,” said Rob Gorden, Arborjet.

The demonstration for the city was done on century old ash trees in Druid Hill Park.

One injection provides protection for three years at a fraction of the cost of removing dying trees.

And when trees are lost, we all lose because “trees are great for clearing our air, lowering our utility bills, cleaning the water, making the Chesapeake Bay cleaner,” Dihle said.

And if something isn’t done to stop the emerald ash borer, the fate of the tree is not promising.

“I’ve never seen an ash tree that’s been attacked that has not died,” Gorden said.

So this might be worth a shot.

It’s estimated Baltimore City has 5,000 ash trees along streets and in parks.

Throw in privately owned trees, and that number jumps to 300,000.

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