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Emerald Ash Borer Beetle Doing Incredible Damage To Area Trees

WEST POINT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- It's a beetle invasion.

But unlike the "fab four," these little critters are not welcomed.

They're eating their way through area trees and as CBS 2's Lou Young reports there might not be a way to stop their advance.

Naturalists working at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point have discovered the advance guard of a foreign invader: a beetle no larger than head of a penny.

"It's a tiny little thing. It's amazing the amount of damage it's gonna cause," Bob MacKenzie said.

That's because every infected tree is going to die. The emerald ash borer has already killed 70 million ash trees since first coming ashore in Detroit a decade ago, according to the USDA. It is believed to have arrived in crate packing from China and has proven to be unstoppable.

"Their hope is to slow it down. That's about all they can do now," naturalist Christopher Pray said.

The emerald ash borer has no natural enemies in this country and an insatiable hunger for the stately trees with a distinctive leaf pattern.

Beetle invasion
Emerald ash borer beetles like trees with this distinctive fern-like leaf pattern. (Photo: CBS 2)

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has put out thousands of purple traps to track the beetles' movements.

Last year the beetle was discovered in Ulster County.  West Point is the closest it has come to New York City. It could be killing ash trees in the northern suburbs very soon.

"There hasn't been a positive ID in Westchester County, but from the sources, from the inspectors and the people we're engaged and involved with we suspect it's on its way," said Ken Almstead of Almstead Tree Service.

There is a chemical inoculation available, but it is expensive -- hundreds of dollars per plant, which is fine for that favorite tree in the yard, but impractical in the forest. The experts all agree unless the advancing invader is stopped, these trees are doomed in our area.

It is believed the beetles have traveled all the way from the Midwest in firewood from infected trees. It is already illegal in New York State to transport firewood more than 50 miles from where it's cut.

If you think you might have an emerald ash borer beetle problem in your yard or in nearby woods, please click on this link.

Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

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