Park confirms emerald ash borer infestation in backcountry
Park officials recently confirmed the Smokies' first backcountry emerald ash borer (EAB) infestation.
Glenn Taylor, Great Smoky Mountains National Park biologist, said the emerald ash borer is a 1/2 inch-long metallic green beetle that lays eggs on the bark on all species of ash trees. After hatching, the EAB larvae burrow under the bark, and create feeding tunnels that cut off nutrient and water flow to the tree. The tree can die in three to five years.
Accidentally introduced to North America from Asia, EAB was first discovered in southeast Michigan in 2002, and has spread to 16 states and two Canadian provinces killing tens of millions of ash trees.
Since 2009, officials have been monitoring for the presence of EAB. Front country infestations were confirmed in June 2012 at Sugarlands Visitor Center and at the Greenbrier entrance to the Park. An off-duty park employee discovered the backcountry infestation on Injun Creek Trail in the Greenbrier area on Nov. 8, 2012.
The employee noticed a pile of bark chips at the base of several ash trees. Signs of woodpecker activity on ash trees is an excellent indicator of an EAB infestation.
Paul Merten, a forest insect specialist from the USDA Forest Service in Asheville, NC, confirmed EAB at the site by looking under ash tree bark for feeding tunnels left by the immature beetle.
“The infestation is well established, probably two years old or older,” Merten said.
Complete eradication of EAB is not currently feasible, but park resource managers are developing a management plan to maintain public safety and protect ash trees where possible. EAB and other tree pests can be transported in firewood.
Park regulations prohibit bringing firewood to the Smokies from areas that have been quarantined for EAB or other destructive pests
For more information about firewood regulations at the Smokies, visit our website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/firewood-alert.htm