- Associated Press - Sunday, February 19, 2017

STAUNTON, Va. (AP) - Trees are being destroyed throughout the Shenandoah Valley due to a tiny green bug.

The emerald ash borer is a wood-boring beetle with a metallic green body. The bug feeds on the layer of the tree just under the bark, which moves life-sustaining sugar, water and nutrients through the tree.

Emerald ash borers, or EAB, go after one tree in particular - ash trees. The emerald ash borer eggs are laid on the outside of the bark, where they burrow into the bark and in the outer sapwood, making them hard to find. They create galleries or tunnels in the outer sapwood and disrupt the flow of water and nutrients for the ash tree, thus killing the tree.

Now, landowners across Northern Virginia and Northwest Virginia are seeing damage to the bark of the ash trees and coming to the Virginia Department of Forestry for help. Bark on these trees is being stripped off by woodpeckers hunting for EAB larvae - a process called “blonding,” according to the VDOF.

The little bug has also made its way down to Augusta County, according to the VDOF and the Shenandoah National Park.

“A single EAB larva has little effect on an ash tree,” said Lori Chamberlin, VDOF’s forest health manager, in a release. “But the feeding of thousands of EAB larvae will kill the tree. So, the blonding process isn’t killing the ash trees per se, but the thousands of EAB larvae that are attracting the woodpeckers are.”

The emerald ash borer has been confirmed in the following counties within the Shenandoah Valley - Shenandoah, Rockingham, Augusta, Frederick, Clarke, Warren, Page, Rockbridge, Bath, Alleghany, Botetourt and Roanoke, according to Katlin Mooneyham, VDOF forest health specialist.

“It has not officially been confirmed - no physical specimen has been collected there yet - in Highland, but we assume that the beetle is there given the confirmation of its presence in surrounding counties,” Mooneyham said. “This invasive insect is commonly spread through the movement of ash wood products or by moving firewood from an infested area to a new location. These beetles can naturally disperse by flying to ash trees upon emergence but this movement is limited to only a few miles each year. The best way that people can help limit the dispersal of this beetle is to not move ash wood products and firewood from one location to another.”

In a forest setting, there isn’t an effective treatment for EAB and the ash trees are going to be killed by EAB, the VDOF said.

There are a few ways landowners can help prevent the spread. A forest landowner can perform salvage logging or enjoy the wildlife habitat that is created by the standing dead trees, a release said.

In a landscape setting, ash trees can be treated with systemic insecticides through either a stem injection or a root soak, a release said. The treatment process can be expensive and has to be repeated either every year or every other year, according to the VDOF.

“One of the biggest problems with trying to treat ash trees is that it’s best to begin the treatment before the tree shows signs of infestation,” Chamberlin said in a release. “Unfortunately, most ash trees are infested with EAB before anyone knows the beetles are present. At some point - typically when a tree has lost half of its crown - the tree reaches the tipping point where the damage is so severe that it’s too late to save it. It’s now time to remove and destroy the tree, and plan tree replacement with alternative species.

“Never move infested wood as that’s the quickest way to spread EAB,” she added.

The Shenandoah National Park has been trapping for EAB since 2009. It was first discovered in the park in 2012.

In 2015, the Shenandoah National Park caught adult emerald ash borer beetles in surveillance traps near Mathews Arm Campground, Gravel Springs Hut, Pinnacles Picnic Area, Big Meadows Picnic Area and the South River Picnic Area, according to the park service. There was a significant jump in number of detections within Warren and Page counties and even into Rappahannock, Rockingham and Madison counties.

In 2016, park staff deployed 20 EAB traps in Central and South Districts as part of the park’s EAB surveillance program. Later in the season, EAB were found in 7 of 20 traps.

Two new counties, Greene and Augusta, were added to Virginia’s EAB positive map in 2016, according Rolf Gubler, a park biologist. The southernmost find in 2016 - Jarman’s Gap near milepost 97 - was 24 miles south of the southernmost find in 2015 at the South River Picnic Area.

In the spring of 2016, staff conducted preventive EAB pesticide treatments on 938 ash trees in the North and Central Districts. Of that, 887 trees were treated with soil injections of imidacloprid and 51 trees were treated with stem injections of emamectin benzoate. Treated trees were inventoried and mapped, Gubler said.

If the insect becomes well established in Shenandoah, it could lead to upwards of 95 percent ash mortality, the park service said.

According to the park service, ash trees represent five percent of the park’s trees. Collectively, these ash-containing communities make up 65 percent of the Park’s forest or 126,883 acres.

If you have ash trees on your property that you are interested in preserving, contact a certified arborist in your community to examine the trees and recommend a plan of action, the VDOF said. If the trees are not able to be saved and they have the potential to cause property damage if they fall, the trees should be removed by a certified arborist as ash wood is brittle and prone to breaking during the removal process.

“The VDOF is continuing to survey for emerald ash borer and help confirm identity at new locations,” Mooneyham said. “If you suspect that you have emerald ash borer on your property or spot dying ash, please contact the Forest Health Program at DOF and we will come out to confirm and discuss treatment and management options.”

___

Information from: The News Leader, https://www.newsleader.com


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide