Ash trees across East Tennessee are under attack by a pest called the Emerald Ash Borer.
Kasey Krouse, urban forester for the City of Knoxville, said the insect came to the U.S. back in 2002 through wood packaging material in Detroit. It slowly moved its way down south and took hold in the Knoxville area in 2010.
The drought in 2016 combined with the infestation of the Emerald Ash Borer has now led to a mostly dead or dying ash tree population, Krouse said.
"If you haven't treated your ash tree, there's almost a 100 percent chance that that tree will succumb to the pest and will eventually die," he added.
The Emerald Ash Borer only attacks ash trees, Krouse said. Its larvae will eat away at the tree, leaving behind a swirling design.
"The majority of our ash tree populations are showing signs and symptoms of Emerald Ash Borer," he said.
The problem is taking hold in Oak Ridge, with the Oak Ridge Electric Department announcing it will take action to identify and, in some cases, remove the dead or dying ash trees.
"Problem was, earlier this year when the leaves started coming out on the trees, we realized that a lot of the ash trees were not blooming out like they should," said Jack Suggs, electrical director for the City of Oak Ridge.
Suggs estimates there may be roughly 2,700 trees in the area that need to be treated or taken down.
Over the next few weeks, the electric department will be surveying the area for any trees in the public rights of ways near power lines.
"As the electrical director, I work to try to balance the needs of the urban forest with the needs of keeping the lights on," said Suggs.
If large ash trees affected by EAB are found on private property, electric department crews will contact the owners to discuss safety concerns and possible options. In the meantime, the electric department strongly encourages property owners to search their properties for ash trees.
"This is the first time I've seen an entire species of trees like the ash look like they're literally look like they're not going to survive this invasion," Suggs said.
If you have an ash tree in your yard, Krouse recommends contacting a certified arborist for the best treatment options.