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Exotic pest threatens Ash trees near Quad Cities

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Majestic Ash trees are great for shade and scenery. But the Emerald Ash Borer is eating them up.

"They think it was in packing materials," said Duane Gissel, Iowa State Extension. "Wooden crates coming in from Asia."

Horticulturist Gissel is a man on a mission these days. He's preparing to battle a beetle that threatens backyards and forests.

"You get the nutrients flowing down from the leaves," he said. "The water flow is coming up from the roots."

The natural flow for the Ash tree becomes a fatal attraction over time.

"It just strangles the tree and cuts off that flow," he said.

The Emerald Ash Borer is creeping into our area. Reported in Stark County, Illinois, it only advances a few miles each year.

"You see all these dead trees, and it really changes the landscape," he said.

Hard to believe such a little pest could be such a problem, but it's devastating Ash trees.

"They go back and forth as they feed up through the tree," he said.

While the Emerald Ash Borer may be a few years away from the Quad Cities, it's symptoms are hard to detect. By that time, it could be too late the save many trees.

Still, The Extension advises delaying treatments until the bug is tracked within a 12-mile radius. There are professional treatments and residental applications available at garden centers.

It's ironic that a tree planted to replaced diseased Dutch Elm trees now faces extinction itself.

"It's like with any single crop," said Craig Hignight, Wallace's Garden Center. "When you go to that intensive of a culture with just one plant, you're opening yourself up to a major catastrophe."

For these Bettendorf trees, it's wait, watch and wonder.

"Hopefully we can delay it getting here long enough that some of the newer treatments will catch up," Gissel concluded. "We'll have more options."

It's kind of like buying time to try to save these trees.