MINOT, N.D. (KXNET) — There are more than 75 million ash trees in North Dakota, but in the next several years, that number may go down thanks to a single insect.

The emerald ash borer is an invasive insect that kills ash trees.

While the insect has not made its way to North Dakota.

The emerald ash borer made its way to the United States 20 years ago.

“It was first discovered in the United States in Michigan, in 2002,” said Troy Regstad, the Minot city forester. “And it’s slowly spreading its way west. it’s now located in Minnesota, and has been found in South Dakota and also Winnipeg.”

The insect has been found in 35 states and five Canadian provinces.

And thanks to its current close proximity, North Dakota could be next.

“There’s actually a pretty significant fear that it could arrive to North Dakota,” said Travis Prochaska, crop protection specialist at the North Central Research Extension Center. “Ash trees are very widespread much of the United States so their arrival, they’re kind of hard to detect, especially initially. And they can be rather hard to control as well.”

The emerald ash borers attack true ash trees and usually kill them.

“The larva bore into the tree and they start eating underneath the bark, and the cambium layer, and it actually girdles the tree so the nutrients can’t flow from the roots to the leaves,” said Regstad.

But there are ways to stop this insect.

Thankfully, there are treatments that could help our trees — including trunk injections, soil drenching and bark spraying.

“It’s not an instant cure-all; it takes time,” said Prochaska. “If a damaged tree is severe, the damage may not be reversible. If it’s pretty minor still, a chemical treatment may not lead to recovery of that tree instantly, it may take a year or two for some of those minor damage trees.”

But Regstad says that it could be costly to try to save every single ash tree in the state.

Financially, it will be extremely difficult.

“They can be quite expensive though,” said Regstad. “Probably around $150 or $200 a tree. So it wouldn’t be cost-effective to treat every ash tree, but you’d probably have to pick and choose your high dollar, high visibility trees.”

The best way to decrease the risk of the emerald ash borer making its way to North Dakota is to source your firewood locally.

“Don’t move firewood,” said Regstad. “Burn it where you’re at. Buy it where you’re gonna burn it.”

So the next time you grab some firewood, make sure you burn it in the same area.

May 24-30 has been proclaimed by Gov. Doug Burgum as Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week in North Dakota.