RALEIGH — The emerald ash borer, an invasive beetle threatening ash trees across the state, was found in Ashe County for the first time, making it the 54th county within the state where the insect has been detected, according to a release from the N.C. Department of Agriculture.
The immature stage of EAB — called larvae — were found in infested trees in the north-central part of the county around the Lansing area, according to Ashe County Forest Service Ranger Anthony Farmer.
The emerald ash borer is a metallic green beetle that bores into ash trees and feeds on tissues beneath the bark, ultimately killing the tree. The signs and symptoms of the infestation are not always immediately noticeable because damage is typically done within the inside of the tree, the release said.
Adult borers lay eggs on the bark of ash trees. When the eggs hatch, the larvae bore into the bark and feed on the transportation tissues of the tree. This disrupts the movement of nutrients and water within the tree, causing the tree's slow death, typically in three to five years, according to the release.
The signs of an EAB infestation include thinning and dying crowns; increased woodpecker activity that causes the tree to look like it is losing patches of bark; small, 1/8-inch D-shaped exit holes where adult beetles emerged from the trees; galleries on the inside of the bark; cream-colored larvae; or sprouting from the main stem of the tree. Host plants include all native ash trees and native white fringetree. The Chinese white fringetree, often planted for ornamental purposes, is believed to be resistant, according to the release.
EAB has been found in the following North Carolina counties: Alamance, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Cabarrus, Caldwell, Caswell, Catawba, Chatham, Cherokee, Davidson, Davie, Durham, Forsyth, Franklin, Gaston, Graham, Granville, Guilford, Halifax, Haywood, Henderson, Iredell, Jackson, Johnston, Lenoir, Lincoln, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mecklenburg, Mitchell, Nash, Orange, Person, Polk, Randolph, Rockingham, Rowan, Rutherford, Surry, Swain, Transylvania, Vance, Wake, Warren, Watauga, Wayne, Wilkes, Wilson, Yadkin and Yancey.
The entire state of North Carolina is under a quarantine for EAB. This prohibits the movement of ash plant parts, the insect itself, ash nursery stock and all hardwood firewood into non-quarantined areas such as central Tennessee, most of Alabama and all of Florida, the release said.
Adult EAB beetles are about a half-inch long and 1/8-inch wide. If their wing covers are pried up, their bodies are a metallic purple-red color. In North Carolina, the adult EAB is typically active from late spring and early summer, likely April through June. EAB larvae may be found under the bark of the tree most of the year.
The spread of invasive insects in the state is often due to human activity through the transportation of infested wood products such as firewood, the release said. It is strongly recommended that people burn local or treated firewood to reduce the spread of invasive pests.
The North Carolina Forest Health Branch monitors the spread of invasive pests. People who suspect there is an infested tree in an area near them should contact their county ranger. The contact information can be found online at ncforestservice.gov.