DENVER (CBS4) – An insect threatening to kill hundreds of trees in Colorado has gotten the attention of Denver Mayor Michael Hancock who wants to get ahead of the problem.

The Emerald Ash Borer has been an epidemic in the Midwest with tens of thousands of trees wiped out from the invasive beetle.

An Emerald Ash Borer Beetle (credit: Colorado State Forest Service)

An Emerald Ash Borer Beetle (credit: Colorado State Forest Service)

The EAB is a non-native, wood boring beetle that, along with its larvae, attacks all true ash tree species, including the white ash in Colorado. Forestry staff first discovered the bug in Boulder in 2013. EAB causes thinning of tree branches, loss of leaves and creates vertical splits in the bark before eventually killing the tree.

In the City of Denver, one-sixth of the trees are ash trees, with 400 of them located in City Park. Hancock said the effects of the Emerald Ash Borer will be devastating but the city will try to be proactive. This year $3 million is budgeted to combat the problem.

The campaign called “Be A Smart Ash” will begin with private land owners finding out if they have an ash tree on their property or their neighbor’s property.

“The vast majority of ash trees in Denver are on private property. The city’s strategy is to educate our residents,” said said Denver Forester Rob Davis.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announces the Be A Smart Ash campaign (credit: CBS)

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announces the Be A Smart Ash campaign (credit: CBS)

The impact from the dead trees isn’t limited to an environmental problem but also the cost to remove those trees.

“We saw complete devastation in communities… communities where they planted ash and we’ve done that in neighborhoods in Denver,” said Denver City Councilman Jolon Clark. “They die very fast and then they become very dangerous they become hazardous to fall on people and property. They need to be taken down and they can’t just get rid of the wood fast enough.”

“Many of these are legacy historic trees original to the park. Sixty, 70, 80-year-old trees. We’re going to protect these trees because they’re essentially irreplaceable,” said Davis. “You can’t replace these trees for 80 years. If we go plant these trees you and I would both be dead before they’re ever back.”

The insect is expected to make its way into Colorado this summer and at the end of the season they will bore into the tree and lay eggs that will eventually kill the tree.

Even with treatment, a large number of trees are expected to die.

Ash trees in City Park (credit: CBS)

Ash trees in City Park (credit: CBS)

“You can protect trees with a variety of different chemical treatments. If somebody wants specifics I recommend they go to BeASmartAsh.org. There is one particular chemical treatment for larger trees that’s a trunk injection that is upper 90 percent effective at protecting a tree for a three-year period, so you inject it in year one, you let it go year three and then year four you treat it again if you want to protect the tree,” said Davis.

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