Recent spells of cold weather have caused many people to start up their fireplaces. While fireplaces are a great way to efficiently heat your home, you need to be careful where you source your firewood. You could be inadvertently spreading invasive insects into our local forest land.
This new insect threat is a small, metallic-green beetle called the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). It is a native of Asia, and was first discovered in America around 2002 in Detroit, Mich.
Since then, scientists and foresters have been on the lookout here in Georgia. In 2013, the first EAB infestations were discovered in Dekalb and Fulton counties. EAB has spread to 21 states already.
The Emerald Ash Borer is able to attack and kill all of our local ash species in Georgia.
Adults lay eggs on the bark of ash trees. The larvae hatch from the eggs and tunnel into the tree trunk, in the process destroying the vital conductive tissues of the tree. Destroying these tissues effectively keeps the tree from moving water and nutrients to the leaves. The larvae morph into adults and exit the tree, leaving characteristic D-shaped holes in the bark. Infested ash trees will usually die within two to three years.
Although it doesn't kill the ash trees in its native habitats, ash species in the United States are all susceptible.
White ash and green ash are the two most common species found in Georgia. Although they are a relatively small portion of our state's forest land, around 1 percent, ash trees are still valuable. They are often found in lowland areas, near streams and creeks, and provide shade to cool the water for aquatic life. Ash is also a valued timber species, used for furniture, baseball bats, and tool handles.
Emerald Ash borer adults can only fly around 15 miles per year, so how has it spread so fast throughout the country? The two main culprits are commerce and firewood. With our ever efficient cargo shipping system, infested pallets can be across the county in under a day. Adult flyers can emerge from infested shipping pallets and spread to local forests.
Firewood transportation is another main cause of EAB infestations. Most people think nothing of picking up a load of firewood in another state while travelling and bringing it home. That cord of firewood could have some unwanted hitchhikers catching a free ride back to your house.
We can all help stop the spread of Emerald Ash Borer in Georgia if we follow a few guidelines for getting firewood.
First, never bring in firewood from another state. In fact, I would recommend avoiding firewood from even another county. The Georgia Department of Agriculture has in place a firewood quarantine on several metro-Atlanta counties, including Carroll, Clayton, Cobb, Dekalb, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry, Newton, Rockdale, Walton and also Whitfield County in northwest Georgia.
Although EAB only affects ash trees now, we always need to be concerned about its ability to move to other tree species. We need to help control its spread and give research scientists time to hopefully figure out a biological control method. I recommend only using local firewood.
Please report any potential Emerald Ash Borer sightings to the extension office. Do your part to ensure our ash trees are protected.
Clark MacAllister is the Dawson County extension agent. For more information, call (706)265-2442.