Sandi Martin and Merritt Melancon, University of Georgia
For years foresters and invasive insect experts have been on the lookout for the arrival of an unwelcome guest in Georgia. Now that it’s here, they hope the public will help restrict its spread within Georgia.
The small, iridescent-green beetle has killed millions of ash trees across a wide swath of Canada and the upper Midwest since it was first detected in 2002. The emerald ash borer — Agrilus planipennis— has spread south and west from infested areas over the last decade.
In July, researchers found adult emerald ash borers in survey traps in DeKalb and Fulton counties. A follow-up ground survey found larvae in nearby ash trees, confirming an established emerald ash borer infestation.
Since 2005 University of Georgia invasive species experts have conducted an extensive trapping program in Georgia to screen for the emerald ash borer.
Georgia’s five species of native ash trees usually grow along stream banks. While ash only makes up about 1 percent of Georgia forests, they play an integral role in preventing the erosion of stream banks and keeping silt out of natural waterways. Ash is also a popular landscape tree, with 2.9 million trees planted around Georgia homes, businesses, parks and greenways. The value of these city trees in Georgia is estimated to be around $725 million.
Although the adult beetle is an active flyer, it is believed that the primary way the beetle spreads is by hitching a ride on infested ash firewood, logs and nursery stock. Emerald ash borer larvae kill ash trees by burrowing serpentine tunnels in the inner layers of bark, preventing the tree from transporting water and nutrients to and from the tree canopy.
The Georgia Invasive Species Task Force will launch a public outreach plan to try to curb the spread of this pest in the near future. This task force consists of the Georgia Department of Agriculture, the Georgia Forestry Commission, UGA, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
People can help slow the spread of this beetle through Georgia by not moving firewood and by helping others to understand how dangerous it can be to move firewood from one area to another.
“To prevent the spread of emerald ash borer, it is important not to move firewood in which the insect can hide,” said Kamal Gandhi, associate professor in the UGA Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. “Buy local firewood, whether camping or for your home.”
To help reduce the spread of the emerald ash borer in Georgia, homeowners with ash trees should have a certified arborist check their trees for signs of emerald ash borer infestations.
Suspected infestations should be reported immediately so that foresters or arborists can understand how the infestation is spreading. This will aid in the development of effective methods to reduce its spread and impact.
“The faster (scientists) can track the spread of the insect, the faster they can work to stop it,” said Joe LaForest, integrated pest management and forest health coordinator at the UGA Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health.
The public can report suspected infestations by:
- Using the SEEDN (Southeastern Early Detection Network) website www.eddmaps.org/southeast.
- Using the SEEDN Smartphone App (available for iPhone or Android devices) apps.bugwood.org/seedn.html .
- Emailing one of the Experts listed below; or by contacting a representative of the Georgia Forestry Commission, Georgia Department of Agriculture, the Department of Natural Resources or their local UGA Cooperative Extension agent.
For more information about the emerald ash borer and how to protect ash trees, visit www.gainvasives.org/eab.
For more information about spotting signs of emerald ash borer infestations, watch this.
(Sandi Martin is the public relations coordinator with the University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. Merritt Melancon is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)