SEPTEMBER 2015—The emerald ash borer is a wood-boring beetle native to Asia. It attacks ash trees, the larvae chewing galleries under the bark. As their population increases in a tree, they drastically reduce the tree’s ability to move nutrients, eventually killing the tree. They have killed tens of millions of ash trees as they have moved from their initial infestation in Michigan.
What does this mean for South Carolina?
The emerald ash borer has been found in 24 states, including Georgia and North Carolina. South Carolina is surrounded!
Four species of ash, all of which are susceptible to the emerald ash borer, are found in South Carolina: green ash, white ash, pumpkin or swamp ash, and Carolina ash. Ash trees are found in every county of South Carolina, but are concentrated in areas with wet soils, particularly in river bottoms and floodplains. They are often also planted as ornamental shade trees in neighborhoods.
Ash wood is used in pulp manufacture and in furniture, tool handles, interior finishing and hardwood veneer. The current value of ash trees in South Carolina is estimated to be more than $2 million. Although infested logs can be used by these industries, the massive die-off that is expected will mean that much less ash wood will be available to these industries in the future.
It is harder to estimate the losses in neighborhoods and urban environments. Dead trees will have to be removed and perhaps new trees will be planted.
South Carolina will step up detection efforts so that we can respond rapidly to infestations. We are increasing trapping and monitoring efforts and outreach and education to arborists, state foresters, and others so that they can recognize and report infested ash trees. We are increasing outreach efforts to educate private citizens that moving firewood or other lumber is the biggest risk in the spread of the emerald ash borer and other pests affecting the health of South Carolina’s forests.
Some signs and symptoms to look for:
- Canopy die back (thinner foliage)
- Growth of sprouts from the base of the tree
- Bark splitting
- Serpentine galleries under the bark
- D-shaped exit holes
- Woodpecker damage
If you suspect an ash tree is infested with emerald ash borer, contact the Clemson Department of Plant Industry at (864)-646-2140, or contact the South Carolina Forestry Commission’s Forest Health team at (803) 667-1002 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.