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'Watch Your Ash' Aims To Educate About Dangerous Beetle

By Lauren DiSpirito

BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4)- If you live in Boulder County, you are being asked to "Watch Your Ash." The clever phrasing now lives on more than 5,000 coasters being distributed at breweries and restaurants throughout the county as part of an educational campaign about the effects of the Emerald Ash Borer, or EAB.

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.

While Boulder is the only Colorado city in which experts have confirmed an infestation of the beetle, scientists fear it can and will spread quickly. Hundreds of thousands of trees could be at risk.

(credit: CBS)

There are more than 98,000 ash trees within city limits, according to Carol O'Meara, CSU extension agent for Boulder County. Throughout the metro area, including Denver, Colorado has 1.5 million ash trees. Dying trees become safety hazards and can be a costly problem for homeowners and municipalities.

"These bugs can travel really far and fairly fast, and so we're wanting everybody in Boulder County whether they're in the city or not to really pay attention to this and look at their trees," says Gabi Boerkircher, the Boulder County communications specialist who came up with the idea for the coaster. Boerkircher also designed its artwork.

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

To combat its spread, the county has been developing outreach programs and new ways to educate people about the bug. The coaster is just its latest and perhaps, most unconventional tool yet. Left Hand Brewing and 300 Suns Brewing, both in Longmont, are among the establishments that have already handed out the coasters.

"People think it's funny," says 300 Suns Brewing owner Jean Ditslear, "They're taking them home, they're laughing, they're reading, which is what you want if you're doing an advertising campaign."

Boerkircher says the response to the coasters has been so great, she's already ordered another 5,000 for distribution.

The coasters list instructions people can follow to help prevent EAB's spread.

  • Keep an eye on ash trees on your property, and get them treated chemically, if necessary.
  • Do not take wood, including firewood, outside of Boulder County.

Lauren DiSpirito is CBS4's Northern Newsroom reporter. Follow her on Twitter @CBS4Lauren. Share your story ideas with her here.


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