PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The hot weather and lush greenery has returned to North Park, but some trees didn’t make it to the party this year.
Around the park, hundreds of green and white ash trees are now dead or dying – the victims of a beetle from China called the Emerald Ash Borer, which preys on ash trees as its name suggests.
“This one’s already dead,” said the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy’s Phil Gruzska of one of the trees. “You can see the galleries from the larva as they work back and forth.”
Many trees are now lifeless, the victim of the beetle’s larvae, which tunnel below the bark and devour the tree’s nutrient-supplying floam – literally starving the tree to death.
Before long, they’ll kill nearly the entire ash tree population in the region, which account for about 15 percent of our trees.
Gruzska: “Could be millions of trees in Allegheny County.”
KDKA’s Andy Sheehan: “Millions of trees?”
Gruzska: Millions. Absolutely.”
The city and the county are fighting back to some degree. They’ve set ash borer traps and marked some trees for treatment with a pesticide called triage, which kills the beetle.
However, injecting a single tree costs $150, far too expensive to save even a small percentage. Absent those kinds of funds, the county is cutting down the dead trees, and stumps are becoming commonplace.
“The best we’re going to do is manage the demise the green and white ash in the city and the county parks,” Gruzska added.
Going forward the county and the city are introducing a predator to the ash borer hoping to contain the population.
The hope is that the beetle can be brought under control and ash trees can be planted once more.
But without the unlikely investment of about $150 million the fate of ash trees are already sealed, and only time will tell if they ever return to our region.