Emerald ash borer found in Charlotte, ash trees at risk

Britt Clampitt
brittany.clampitt@charlottenc.gov
6/1/2017

​​CHARLOTTE, N.C. (June 1, 2017)— City of Charlotte Landscape Management has confirmed that the emerald ash borer, a beetle that kills ash trees, was recently found on a forested parcel near Clanton Road in Charlotte.

The emerald ash borer bores into ash trees and eats the tissues beneath the bark, which eventually kills the tree. It made​ its first appearance in the United States in 2002, near Detroit, and is responsible for killing tens of millions of ash trees.  

Assistant City Arborist Laurie Reid Dukes said the insect is not likely to be a major threat to Charlotte's tree canopy.

"Ash trees make up less than one percent of trees in Mecklenburg County, so the emerald ash borer isn't as big a threat to our overall urban forest as it is in places where ash trees are a major component of the urban forest," Dukes said, "but residents need to be aware because it can take two to three years for a tree to show signs of infestation. Once that happens, the tree will die within five years."

The beetle is bullet-shaped, metallic green and about a half-inch long. Emerald ash borers attack all species of ash trees in North Carolina, including green ash, white ash, pumpkin ash and Carolina ash. Adult beetles feed on ash leaves and are active May through July, but their larvae can be found under the bark year-round.

Signs of emerald ash borer infestation include a thinning crown that starts at the top of the ash tree and progresses downward. There are also D-shaped exit holes and S-shaped winding tunnels underneath the bark. The tree might also have increased woodpecker activity and sprouting along the trunk below where the insect has bored under the bark.

It is important for residents to determine if ash trees are growing on their property, and to decide if the trees will be preserved or removed. There are several insecticides labeled to control the insect, with varying degrees of success depending on the health of the tree. The city recommends a tree care professional or professional arborist take a look at the tree to recommend a long-term treatment plan. If the decision is made to remove the tree, replanting a species other than ash is important to help maintain tree canopy levels.

Dukes said even residents who don't have ash trees can help by never transporting firewood more than 50 miles from its origin.

"Firewood often carries invasive species that make their way into campgrounds, parks and forests, and eventually to urban areas," Dukes said. "Now that camping season is underway, we advise people to purchase firewood on-site instead of bringing it from somewhere else."

Learn more about the emerald ash borer at charlottenc.gov/trees. You can also learn to identify ash trees by watching this video.​

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