An invasive beetle species that has killed millions of ash trees across the country has been spotted in Raleigh.
The emerald ash borer, a small, metallic green beetle, was identified in Raleigh at the Walnut Creek Wetlands Center south of downtown on May 1, according to city officials.
Emerald ash borers are native to east Asia and were first discovered in the U.S. in Michigan in 2002, after the beetles accidentally arrived in cargo shipments. Since then, they have been responsible for the death or decline of tens of millions of ash trees in the U.S., mostly in the Midwest, and have been detected in 30 states.
Emerald ash borers were first found in North Carolina in 2013 in Granville, Vance, Warren and Person counties. Since then, they have spread to 25 counties, according to the state forestry department.
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The insects pose a serious threat to the state’s ash trees, said Rob Trickel, forest health branch head at the N.C. Forest Service.
“We’re going to lose a lot of ash before this is all over with,” he said.
Trickel said ash trees typically take two to three years to show symptoms of an emerald ash borer infestation – meaning the insects may have arrived in Raleigh undetected years ago.
Once an ash tree shows symptoms of emerald ash borers, it takes about two more years for it to die.
Ash trees that are infested begin losing leaves and branches starting from the top down. Other signs include small holes in the trunk where feeding beetles exit the tree, cracking of the bark and small tree sprouts emerging from the trunk’s base.
The insects affect only ash trees, which are about 2 percent of the state’s trees. In Raleigh, ash makes up less than 1 percent of trees, said Zach Manor, the city’s urban forester, with most of the area’s ash trees located along the Neuse River and Crabtree Creek.
Manor said the city has identified ash trees on public property and will monitor them for signs of infestation. The city plans to cut down infested trees for safety reasons.
Trickel urged people with an unhealthy ash tree to contact a professional, such as the local county forest ranger, to confirm the presence of emerald ash borers. Although there have been other suspected sightings in Raleigh, emerald ash borers have been confirmed only at the Walnut Creek Wetlands Center.
The emerald ash borers natural spread is slow, but is sped up by people transporting firewood that may contain the insects, Trickel said.
“Don’t take the tree that died in your yard, because you take with it what killed your tree,” he said.
Sam Killenberg: 919-829-4582
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For more information about the emerald ash borer, visit the N.C. Forest Service’s website: www.ncforestservice.gov/forest_health/fh_eabfaq.htm
To report a suspected ash borer infestation, contact the Wake County Forest Rangers: ncforestservice.gov/contacts/Wake.htm.