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PALM HARBOR, Florida (AP) - Officials say an exotic pest is killing hundreds of trees in the Tampa Bay-area.

Pinellas County officials said Monday that the red bay ambrosia beetle had been found in John Chestnut Park and was spreading to the adjacent 8,000-acre Brooker Creek Preserve. It also has been found in northwestern Hillsborough County.

The insect spreads laurel wilt disease in red bay laurel, swamp bay and avocado trees. There is no cure.

Steven Harper of the Pinellas County Department of Environmental Managementtells the Tampa Bay Times that the only thing that can be done is to let the epidemic run its course.

The red bay ambrosia beetle is originally from Asia. State records show that it first appeared near Jacksonville in 2005. It's since spread to most Florida counties.

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