Park confirms emerald ash borer infestation
By Joel Davis | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
An emerald ash borer infestation has been confirmed in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park backcountry for the first time.
Park resource managers recently confirmed infestation, said GSMNP biologist Glenn Taylor.
“The emerald ash borer is a half-inch-long metallic green beetle that lays eggs on the bark on all species of ash trees,” Taylor said. “After hatching, the EAB larvae burrow under the bark and create feeding tunnels that cut off nutrient and water flow to the tree. The tree can die in three to five years.”
Accidentally introduced to North America from Asia, the emerald ash borer was first discovered in southeast Michigan in 2002, and has spread to 16 states and two Canadian provinces, killing tens of millions of ash trees.
Since 2009, officials have been monitoring for the presence of emerald ash borers. Front country infestations were confirmed in June at Sugarlands Visitor Center and at the Greenbrier entrance to the Park.
An off-duty park employee discovered the backcountry infestation on Injun Creek Trail in the Greenbrier area on Nov. 8. The employee noticed a pile of bark chips at the base of several ash trees. Signs of woodpecker activity on ash trees is an excellent indicator of an emerald ash borer infestation.
Paul Merten, a forest insect specialist from the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service in Asheville, N.C., confirmed infestation at the site by looking under ash tree bark for feeding tunnels left by the immature beetle. “The infestation is well established, probably two years old or older,” he said.
Complete eradication of the emerald ash borer is not currently feasible, but Park resource managers are developing a management plan to maintain public safety and protect ash trees where possible.
Emerald ash borers and other tree pests can be transported in firewood. Park regulations prohibit bringing firewood to the Smokies from areas that have been quarantined for emerald ash borers or other destructive pests.