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Emerald Ash Borer Now Posing A Threat To Trees On Long Island

SMITHTOWN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) - A threat to our street and backyard trees from a beetle has made its way to Long Island.

It has already killed millions of beloved ash trees across North America.

As CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reports, a beautiful shade tree, ash trees are part of the suburban landscape.

But on Nicola Lane in Nesconsett, eight of them are now gone.

"I noticed that all the trees had bloomed their leaves and the ones on our street hadn't," said resident Anne Connor.

"They were dying, and they needed to be taken out," Thomas Connor said.

The culprit: The emerald ash borer beetle, and exotic insect from Asia, now in 35 states.

Since its appearance on Long Island two years ago, it has been making its way into more neighborhoods. The Town of Smithtown is surveying all 50,000 street trees for signs of infestation.

"Our aim right now is to really find out where our ash trees are, how many we have and if we have ones that are salvageable," said Tom Colella, forester for the Town of Smithtown.

"We want to identify this early before these trees become structural problems that could become a danger," said Town of Smithtown Director of Environmental Protection David Barnes.

Homeowners are urged to check trees on their property.

It's hard to spot the small, metallic adult. But you can see the damage: Holes shaped like the letter D where the insect emerges.

"You'll see kind of bare bark, it's blonding, it's indicative of a woodpecker in the tree for some kind of insect. They'll feed on the emerald ash borer," Colella said.

"It tells us there is an infestation in this tree, and combined with small little branches, sucker growth on the tree," said Barnes.

Those are signs larvae are chewing their way through the tree, cutting off nutrients.

The beetles fly and can spread the decimation.

"These metallic beetles will begin emerging around late June and start to fly and look for places to lay eggs and attack new trees at that point," said Dan Gilrein of the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County.

Infestation is not always a death sentence. It can be treated professionally if discovered early. Homeowners should report suspected infestation to their town or the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The New York state DEC says the insect is now found across the state, and recently in 80 trees in the Selden, Long Island area.

For more information from the state about what to do if you suspect emerald ash borer infestation, CLICK HERE.

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