Texas Forest Service looking for landowners with ash trees

Source: Texas Forest Service

Texas Forest Service soon will be surveying ash trees across the state for signs of the emerald ash borer, an invasive insect that kills its host.

Emerald Ash Borer. Picture courtesy emeraldashborer.info

An exotic wood-boring beetle from Asia, the dark, metallic green insect bores into ash trees and feeds on the area between the wood and the bark, effectively killing the tree.

The half-inch long pest first was found in Michigan in 2002, and since has spread to at least 15 different states and Canada. The survey is designed to help tree experts determine if the beetle also has spread to Texas.

“It’s killing millions of ash trees in the Lake states,” said Ron Billings, Texas Forest Service forest health manager. “Right now, the emerald ash borer hasn’t been detected in Texas. The closest known location is Missouri. But these insects can be easily spread.”

Beginning in March, foresters — working together with partnering agencies and trained volunteers — will begin hanging large, purple traps from select ash trees in Central and East Texas. They’ll be checked in June and August and then removed.

Resembling a three-paneled box kite, the purple traps will be hung in or near ash trees in state and federal parks, campgrounds and on private lands with landowner permission. Any suspicious-looking beetles that resemble emerald ash borers will be collected for review by experts.

More than 700 survey traps will be set out in 71 Texas counties this year as part of a cooperative effort between the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Texas Forest Service, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Stephen F. Austin State University College of Forestry and Agriculture and several volunteer citizen scientist groups.

If you’re a landowner with ash trees — the only known host — on your property, live in one of the counties being monitored (marked in green on this map) and would like to participate, surveyors could use your help. Notify your closest Texas Forest Service office or contact a regional forest health specialist in your area.

If the location is suitable, surveyors will set up and monitor the trap for you and then remove it at the end of the survey.

If present in Texas, adult beetles would be searching for new hosts between April and August. After selecting a tree, the adults reproduce and their young larvae spend the winter feeding just beneath the bark before emerging in the spring as adults. The process repeats as the new adults fly off to find their own host.

“Early detection and eradication are key steps in preventing the emerald ash borer from becoming established in Texas,” Billings said, explaining that infestations often start when people move infested nursery trees, logs or firewood into uninfested areas.

For more information on the emerald ash borer and the trapping program, visit www.emeraldashborer.info.

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