Emerald Ash Borer Infests The Backcountry Of Great Smoky Mountains

The very aptly named Emerald Ash Borer. NPS photo.

With so many forest pests suddenly running rampant, one would think that the Southern Appalachians deserve a break. But just last week, Great Smoky Mountains National Park announced an infestation of the emerald ash borer (EAB).

According to park biologist Glenn Taylor, “The 1/2 inch-long metallic green emerald ash borer beetle 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.”

The EAB was first discovered in southeast Michigan in 2002 after being accidentally introduced to North America from Asia. The beetle has spread to 16 states and two Canadian provinces killing tens of millions of ash trees.

To delay and contain the infestation of EAB the park has prohibited the importation of firewood that might contain the beetles. Park regulations prohibit bringing firewood to the Smokies from areas that have been quarantined for EAB or other destructive pests. Bottom line—anyone coming to camp in the park should plan on using local firewood.

Click here for more information about firewood regulations.

Front country infestations were confirmed in June 2012 at Sugarlands Visitor Center and at the Greenbrier entrance. An off-duty park employee just discovered the backcountry infestation on Injun Creek Trail in the Greenbrier area on November 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. By looking under ash tree bark for feeding tunnels left by the immature beetle, Paul Merten, a forest insect specialist from the USDA Forest Service in Asheville, NC, was able to confirm EAB at the site. Merten said, “The infestation is well established,
probably two years old or older.”

Park employees have been on the lookout since 2009 for EAB. Complete eradication is not currently feasible, but Park Resource Managers are developing a management plan to maintain public safety and protect ash trees where possible. Click this site for more information about emerald ash borer.