By LYNN LOFTON
It’s very clear that the Emerald Ash Borer beetle is not welcome in Mississippi even though it has made its way to surrounding states. The Mississippi Forestry Commission is leading the fight to keep this non-native invasive pest out of the Magnolia State. Originally found in Asia and parts of Russia, the tiny insect arrived in America in 2002 when it was discovered in packing material in Michigan.
“It’s a tiny insect — only seven to 10 millimeters long — and it’s shiny green. That’s how it got its name,” says Russell Bozeman, director of forestry protection and forestry information with the Forestry Commission.
“It bores into the bark of ash trees and its larvae feed just under the bark in the layer that moves water and nutrients in the tree, disrupting that flow which in turn kills trees.”
At this time, there is no documented research suggesting that the Emerald Ash Borer beetle invades species other than Ash.
This beetle has made its way South from Michigan and has invaded Tennessee, Louisiana and Arkansas.
“That migration started about four years ago when it broke free of the Northern area,” Bozeman said.
“Now we know it can survive in multiple climate regions. We don’t have it yet and we hope it stays that way.”
In an effort to stop the invasion of Mississippi, the Forestry Commission initiated a no-move-firewood program. “The beetle won’t fly; it must be transported. It’s moved in firewood mostly,” he explained. “That’s why we started this campaign. People were unknowingly transporting it in firewood.”
Mississippi is a richly forested state with hardwoods and pine. Bozeman estimates that about half of the state’s trees are hardwood and ash is strong among those species. Ash is especially plentiful in the river counties and river basin areas. It’s also used in urban areas a lot because of its ornamental properties.
“Its valuable in a city setting because losing just one tree has a greater impact than it does to land owners who have a lot of ash trees,” Bozeman said.
“If one tree in a line of trees dies in a city, it must be replaced.”
The Forestry Commission is optimistic the no-move-firewood initiative is helping keep the Emerald Ash Borer beetle out of the state. The pest’s movement has slowed, but residents should remain vigilant.
“We want people to be aware. Without them being conscious of what’s going on, it certainly will be here,” Bozeman said.
“There is no application of insecticides to get rid of this beetle; there’s nothing like crop dusting. To the best of my knowledge, there is no technique proven to be effective for commercial distribution. Prevention is the best way.”
If this beetle invades a property owner’s Ash trees, he cannot move that wood even if a mill is just a mile down the road, the forester points out.
“There are things that must be done to be able to move it and it’s expensive.”
Anyone who wants to check their trees for this insect can put out traps — small blue boxes that attach to trees — to catch them if they’re present.
Bozeman, who’s been in his present position five years, advises that if an ash tree dies for no apparent reason, the tree should be inspected.
“The entry hole is sort of a D shape; it’s not round,” he said. “You can flake off some bark and you may find beetle larva. What you find should be reported to a forester or county agent. Every county has both.”
The Forestry Commission has numerous partners, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Nature Conservancy, the Mississippi State University Extension Service and other universities conducting research into this problem.
The traps are available from the USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Services. Other information is available at www.mfc.ms.gov and www.dontmovefirewood.org or by calling 601.359.1386.
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