February 18, 2015
Baton Rouge, La. (February 18, 2015) – The emerald ash borer, a severe insect pest of ash trees, has been confirmed in Webster Parish making Louisiana the 25th state to confirm the presence of this beetle.
Emerald ash borer (EAB) is a federally-regulated plant pest that almost exclusively attacks ash trees. It was first reported in the U.S. in Michigan in 2002. The beetle, which is native to Asia, most likely entered the country in dunnage or wooden pallets. Since that time, it has spread down the East Coast as far south as North Carolina and Georgia, and west to Colorado. Most recently, it was found in southern Arkansas in July 2014.
A U.S. Forest Service and Forest Health Protection employee found evidence of EAB damage in ash trees during a visual survey. Further investigation revealed larvae (immature beetles) beneath the bark of multiple trees in approximately a two acre area. Feeding damage creates characteristic S-shaped tunnels, or galleries, in the sapwood causing initial branch dieback. After several years, the infested trees die. Larvae were collected and sent to the USDA Systematic Entomology Laboratory in Maryland where they were confirmed as EAB.
“Louisiana’s ash trees are primarily located along the Atchafalaya Basin and the Mississippi River Delta. However, ash trees are also planted in many urban areas for its aesthetic appeal,” said Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M. “As mentioned last year when EAB was discovered in our neighboring state of Arkansas, it could be costly for residents or city officials to have them removed once they start dying.”
The LDAF began drafting an EAB response plan in the fall of 2014 in preparation for the anticipated arrival of EAB in Louisiana. The plan included a survey, outreach and regulatory oversight components and involved multiple federal and state agencies including USDA U.S. Forest Service (USFS), USDA-APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine (USDA-PPQ), and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Industry associations with interests in forested lands and urban plantings of ash trees also participate as well as the LSU AgCenter. “The LSU AgCenter will continue to support these outreach education efforts to forest landowners and the general public on EAB issues through our regional foresters and parish agriculture and natural resource agents,” said LSU Vice President of Agriculture Bill Richardson.
The LDAF and USDA-PPQ have surveyed for EAB adult beetles annually for the past seven years using sticky traps baited with lure scents which are attractive to the beetles. A trap survey will resume again in the spring when adults become active. Survey results will help determine the extent of the beetle presence in the state and the potential regulatory actions necessary to reduce the spread of the pest. Regulated products would include ash nursery stock, ash logs, lumber and pallets and all hardwood firewood.
Last October, the LDAF started a “Don’t Move Firewood” campaign which is geared toward educating people about the risks of transporting pests to other locations where some can do harm. It is best to purchase firewood not more than 10 miles from where it will be burned. When traveling, burn firewood where you purchased it and make sure to burn all of it.