The emerald ash borer, a destructive insect that attacks ash trees and can kill them, has been found on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Reservation, according to an article posted on ORNL Today.
The non-native insect was first trapped in Roane and Anderson counties in May, the article said. One trap was on Highway 95 at the Highway 58 interchange, and the other was on Bethel Valley Road near the East Portal.
“Unfortunately, these finds signal the beginning of a decline of ash species throughout the reservation,” said Greg Byrd, forester with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Natural Resources Program.
In the article, Bryd said native ash trees have few defenses against the emerald ash borer.
“Dieback will become more prominent as the insect populations expand,” he said.
The Tennessee Department of Agriculture says the emerald ash borer, Agrilus planipennis, is believed to have been introduced into Michigan 15 to 20 years ago on wood packing material from Asia. Since then, the destructive insect has been found in many states, including Tennessee.
Typically, the emerald ash borer (EAB) beetles can kill an ash tree within three years of the first infestation, the Department says on its website.
“There are control measures against EAB for high-value individual trees if the dieback hasn’t reached the tipping point, but on a forest scale, no controls have yet been found to be practical,” Bryd said.
Greg says the Natural Resources Program will develop recommendations for dealing with the ash borer impact at the ORNL campus. One of the projects for ORNL interns this summer will be to find host trees within high-use areas.
“We’ll examine how our ash trees matrix with the four ‘Ps’: power, parking, pedestrians and picnic tables,” Byrd said.
The ORNL Today article said campers from infested areas who unwittingly transport infested wood have allowed the pest to leapfrog quarantined areas and become established in new areas.
“Researchers believe adult borers would migrate only up to a mile from their hatching point without help from people,” it said. “So one of the most important messages foresters have been passing along is the need to observe the state’s new regulations restricting the movement of hardwood firewood within our area.”
Greg is hopeful that informed DOE staff members will lessen the chances of spreading this community’s problem to other areas.
“Fortunately, we have a culture here that understands the value of not spreading contamination,” he said.
The state’s EAB website includes information on how to prevent the spread of the emerald ash borer, including by not transporting firewood, as well as information on signs of infestation.