Lately, there has been a lot of talk over the ash beetle invasion that recently struck the Boulder, Colorado area last September. The non-native, bright green emerald ash borer only preys on ash trees (hence its colloquial name ash beetle), and once an ash tree is infested with these little guys, there is practically no hope for survival.
On the surface, these beetles seem like your typical, destructive pests; but what adds an interesting layer to this dilemma is the fact that they’re not the only non-native species that’s involved here. Ironically, the ash trees that are currently growing here in Colorado are also a non-native species like the ash beetle, and they were purposely planted here (and will continue to be– about a million of them through year 2025) in order to introduce more shade into our sunny state. The point is, although we keep deliberately planting them, the ash trees– just like the ash beetle– aren’t really supposed to be here, either.
So what’s the problem?
Well, studies predict that this new invasive ash beetle population will end up killing off tens of thousands of ash trees in Colorado… all while the state spends enormous funds (which are projected to eventually amount to millions of dollars) on ineffective chemical treatments that attempt to “mitigate” the ash beetle population and reverse the damage caused by the critters in already infested ash trees. Unfortunately, these chemical treatments and insecticidal tree-injections cannot save these trees, nor can they possibly kill off all of the beetles; the only remedy that works is the removal of the infested ash tree altogether. We can’t help but feel sorry for all of the ash trees (which are supposed to be thriving) and demonize the ash beetles for being such stubborn pests, but we must remember that what’s happening is also just nature.
Thus, the real problem is not the havoc of the ash beetle. Rather, the true problem is that we keep continuing to plant new ash trees to replace the already dead and dying ones (which is frankly a waste of money, time, and resources), and we keep poisoning our ecosystem with pointless pesticides and insecticides that aren’t really working. Seven months later after the ash beetle invasion, we find ourselves stuck in a sort of cyclical war between the ash tree and the ash beetle, pouring all of our efforts into constant planting, pesticide-injecting, removing, and re-planting. It’s as if we are just luring the ash beetles with fresh bait over and over again, and many feel that these measures we’ve been taking to eradicate the ash beetle have proven to be overwhelmingly futile and wasteful.
But is there an alternative solution?
A solution: not quite. But a suggestion for how we can cope: yes. Many Colorado citizens propose and agree that it is more financially and environmentally ethical to first stop trying to save the ash trees that are already infested by the ash beetle, and to also stop planting new ones for the ash beetles to just inevitably gobble up again. In reality, if an ash tree has ash beetles living inside of it, then it must be accepted that the tree will eventually die. Toxic pesticide and insecticide treatments are very costly and are highly unsuccessful in reversing the ash beetles’ infestation of an ash tree. Not to mention, these synthetic chemicals are dangerous for our environment and health. Also, the “preemptive removal” of healthy ash trees, as well as the removal of beetle-ridden ones, lacks logic– why would we invest in the removal of all of these ash trees if we are also simultaneously investing in a project to plant almost a million new ones? In other words, why keep planting ash trees and feeding the beetles?
Ultimately, the idea of letting nature run its course and choosing acceptance over combativeness exists. We can choose to stop injecting pesticides and insecticides into our environment and ecosystem and stop planting new ash trees to cover-up the dead ones. Believe it or not, having dead ash trees around us is not the end of the world. We can always use the dead ash trees as firewood and scrap wood, and perhaps even launch a campaign to repurpose the dead ash trees in the Boulder community. We must also keep in mind that, when left alone, dead ash trees create more natural habitat for wildlife. So why not, for now, just let the ash beetles have the ash trees that are already planted here, and let the birds have plenty of beetles to eat in the meantime? There is no need to be so ashamed of the ash beetle, in our opinion.
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