- Associated Press - Thursday, February 19, 2015

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The emerald ash borer, a severe insect pest of ash trees, has been detected in Webster Parish, making Louisiana the 25th state to confirm the beetle’s presence.

Emerald ash borer was first reported in the U.S. in Michigan in 2002. Since then, it has spread down the East Coast to North Carolina and Georgia, and west to Colorado. Most recently, it was found in southern Arkansas last July.

“We’ve been expecting it though because it was found 30 miles from the border (with Louisiana) last year,” said Tim Schowalter, professor and head of the Department of Entomology at LSU Agricultural Center. Although the insect can migrate on its own slowly over the landscape, the rapid spread of the insect is likely caused by people moving firewood from one area to another.

“That’s a key to how that insect is spread,” Schowalter said.

The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry started a “Don’t Move Firewood” campaign to try to raise awareness about how firewood can spread the emerald ash borer and other invasive species. The emerald ash borer kills trees as the larvae tunnel under the bark, disrupting the tree’s ability to circulate food and water. The tree dies over a couple of years, usually from the top of the tree down. When a tree has a lot of the insects, the tree will start to die from the top and most of the canopy of the tree can be dead within two years.

The beetle most likely entered the country in dunnage or wooden pallets.

Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain says Louisiana’s ash trees are mostly found along the Atchafalaya Basin and the Mississippi River Delta. A trap survey will resume in the spring when adult beetles become active. Survey results will help determine the extent of the beetle presence in the state.

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