Just when you thought we had made it through the summer without the usual “Lost In Space” warning from a robot waving his arms and demanding “danger Will Robinson,” out of the forests of East Tennessee comes the report that a bug that has sent terror throughout the Northeast has now made its way into our beautiful mountains of Tennessee. The ash trees located in our state’s forests are in the sights of a beetle all decked out in emerald green resembling something from a leftover St. Patty’s Day party that went totally wrong. The emerald ash borer is about as destructive a bug as it gets and it has made a major mark up North. And, just like General Sherman did many years ago during the War of Northern Aggression, it is wanting to make a march on our woodlands, but our Department of Agriculture has other plans for this green menace.
The Tennessee Department of Agriculture recently made the announcement that the emerald ash borer was detected during the middle of July at a truck stop in Knox County near the Loudon County line and their report said it was the first detection of the insect in the state. “We knew the emerald ash beetle could potentially reach Tennessee, and we’re prepared to help slow the spread of the infestation and protect our forest resources,” the announcement quoted state Agriculture Commissioner Ken Givens. “We will be working closely with federal officials and other stakeholders to determine the extent of the infestation and to take steps to limit its spread.”
They went on to say that after receiving a report of a suspected find, state and federal officials collected specimens from infested logs for submission to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for positive identification. The USDA confirmed the find.
The good news is that the emerald ash beetle attacks only ash trees. The bug that takes living green to the wrong level, is thought to have been introduced into the Detroit, Mich. area 15 to 20 years ago on wood packing material from Asia. Guess that is another reason to try to buy your pallets locally. Since then, it also has been found also in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
The Tennessee Department of Agriculture plans to issue a quarantine in Knox and Loudon counties prohibiting the movement of firewood, ash nursery stock, ash timber and other material that can spread the beetle to other areas of the state. The department reports that its plant inspectors and foresters will conduct a thorough survey of trees in the areas to assess the extent of the infestation.
It takes the beetles around three years to kill an ash tree once they infest a tree. The department describes the beetles as dark green, one-half inch in length and one-eighth inch wide, and fly only from April until September, depending on the climate of the area. In Tennessee, most EAB adults would fly in May and June. They report that the larvae spend the rest of the year beneath the bark of ash trees. When they emerge as adults, they leave D-shaped holes in the bark about one-eighth inch wide.
The ash tree is very important to our state and this insect could have a major impact on not only our forest, but to trees located within our cities. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry estimates that 10 million urban ash trees in Tennessee are potentially at risk from the insect. They say the risk represents an estimated value loss of $2 billion. There are an estimated 261 million ash trees on Tennessee public and private timberland potentially valued as high as $9 billion.
Individuals can help by not transporting firewood, even within Tennessee. With a lot of Tennesseans now enjoying camping, it is important they buy their campsite wood from a local source. Above all, don’t transport or buy firewood from outside the state. And, don’t bring wood home with you once your camping vacation is over.
Since this green bug of terror has reached our state we all need to keep an eye on our own ash trees for signs of infestations. If you see anything suspicious, you can visit www.TN.gov/agriculture/eab for an online symptoms’ checklist and report form or call the TDA’s Regulatory Services Division at 1-800-628-2631.
We can stop this bug only with the help of everyone. Let’s keep Tennessee green with trees, not emerald ash beetles.