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Invasive species attacks Calvary Cemetery in Johnson City

JOHNSON CITY (WBNG) — The emerald ash borer has invaded the Calvary Cemetery in Johnson City. Infecting more than 50 ash trees across the property.

“I just had no idea,” manager Colin Ramey said. “It was really an invasion. They came and they conquered all of the trees that we could see.”

The problem began two years ago, Ramey said. It went unnoticed until Fall 2018 when it was already too late to treat the disease with insecticide.

“I just couldn’t believe that this small bug could do this much damage,” Ramey said. “Between the bug and the woodpeckers, it was unbelievable just how fast these trees were destroyed.”

All ash trees will have to be cut down to prevent them from dying and possibly falling onto graves or visitors. That is a large expense that will require work to be done in phases, Ramey said.

“When you take a closer look, you realize that the insects are already in the tree,” Ramey said. “It’s only a matter of time before the wood peckers get in there and take the tree apart.”

Many of the plots under these ash trees were selected by families specifically for the shade provided, Ramey said. That shade will take generations to return when replacement trees are planted.

Walking around the cemetery one can see the blonde color of the tree indicating that the emerald ash borer has begun to strip the bark off the tree. That bark is then left on the ground and requires daily maintenance and cleaning.

The bugs are not able to get into the ground and damage any caskets that have been buried.

Brendan Tierney

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