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Tens of thousands of Northern Virginia ash trees are at risk of dying in coming years, according to area forestry officials. The culprit? A menacing, half-inch beetle. The infamous tree killer, emerald ash borer, is wreaking havoc on the region, feeding on the inner bark of ash trees and squashing their ability to transport water and minerals. Forestry management officials say pockets of dead ash trees will crop up in yards, parks and forests across Northern Virginia in the next few years. Exterminators don't expect to squash it anytime soon, saying it could eventually wipe out all of the area's ash trees. "I wish I could tell you we're going to stop this thing," said Troy Shaw, coordinator of Fairfax County's forest pest program. "That's not reality. There is not a lot that can be done to stop them." Shaw said the metallic green beetle is most commonly spread through firewood, with people unknowingly transporting infected specimen to new areas. Ash tree products in Fairfax, Arlington, Loudoun and Prince William counties are under quarantine, as well as in Alexandria, Fairfax City, Falls Church and Manassas. Emerald ash borer was first spotted in Fairfax County in 2003, where officials removed all ash trees within a half mile of the breakout. It didn't eliminate the pest, though, with new infestations cropping up in 2008 in Herndon, Bailey's Crossroads and Newington. Last year, new infestations were spotted in the Fair Oaks area and in Arlington County. Fairfax County officials are deploying 500 nontoxic glue traps to gauge any borer spreading, but they doubt it will fully identify the problem. Adult emerald ash borers emerge between May and July, when they lay eggs in bark crevices. Signs of damage include D-shaped exit holes and vertical splits on bark and branches. The beetle has killed millions of ash trees nationwide, costing the forestry industry billions of dollars. It is believed to have arrived in the United States on solid wood packing material in Asian cargo ships or airplanes.