EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The city of East Providence is taking proactive steps to save its tree canopy from an invasive insect species.

City officials told 12 News a survey of city-owned ash trees identified around 80 that are now being treated with an insecticide to protect them from the emerald ash borer, whose larvae feed on and ultimately kill the trees.

The city secured a $5,000 grant from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management that was matched with city funds to contract a local arborist to inspect and treat the trees. The insecticide is injected into the trunks of trees that are not already showing signs of significant decline, and because there is no spraying, the city said it poses little impact to the environment and beneficial organisms.

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A native species of the Northeast, ash trees were once commonly planted in public spaces to provide shade to residents, as well as food and shelter to wildlife. Cities and towns are now having to reevaluate their use following the discovery of the ash borer in Rhode Island in 2018. In June, Bristol took measures to remove dozens of trees that were weakened by the ash borer.

East Providence officials said they hope to buy more time with the city’s valuable canopy by taking a more cost-effective approach, rather than removing and replacing trees that would take years to grow to existing sizes.

Signs that ash trees might be infected include thinning in the upper canopy, dead tree limbs, D-shaped exit holes in the bark, and tunnels from below the bark.