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GLEN ELLYN, Ill. (CBS) – It’s barely the size of your pinky nail, but is rapidly changing the landscape of the Chicago area. Emerald Ash Borer infestations are leading to the removal of thousands of trees.
CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez visited one community where officials say the problem is sure to get worse before it gets better.
It’s a familiar sight after severe weather, but on a Glen Ellyn street lined with Ash trees, it’s a tiny pest that’s responsible for downing the trees.
“I think it’s a shame. I think it’s really sad. These trees have been here a lot longer than we have. I hate to see them go,” Glen Ellyn resident Brian said.
Emerald ash borer infestations have already killed millions of trees in 13 states and the insect has set its sights on northeastern Illinois.
Gley Ellyn village forester Peggy Drescher said, “The telltale sign is the white flecking of the bark, which is woodpecker damage.”
Woodpeckers are drawn to the diseased trees, to feast on the larvae of the ash borers.
But the woodpecker damage seldom appears until the tree is too far gone.
“It’s so sad to see them go,” said Glen Ellyn resident Debbie Norberg. “It’s an old community with a lot of roots, and now they’re taking our roots out.”
Drescher said people just don’t realize the seriousness of the ash borer problem.
In 2009, Glen Ellyn removed 40 trees. This year, it will be closer to 400 and that’s nearly a quarter of all the ash trees in the community.
“It’s extremely devastating and … we cannot stop it but we can hope to slow the spread with some of our treatments,” Drescher said.
To make sure residents know they have Ash trees, the village started tagging them with information about the disease.
Treatment can be costly, but it beats the expense of cutting them down – which, for a lot of communities has become a budget buster.
“The village board was kind enough to give us a budget of $160,000 to remove, replace and stump grind,” Drescher said. “Last year, we only had about $45,000, so our emerald ash borer program went up dramatically.”
The village can only afford to replace less than half of the trees they’re cutting down.