Two Texas counties recently confirmed the arrival of an invasive tree-killing beetle, bringing the total number of counties in the state impacted to 11.
Five Texas counties were added to the list of confirmed cases just this year, the Texas A&M Forest Service reported in a news release. The invasive emerald ash borer (EAB) was most recently confirmed in Morris and Rusk counties.
Demian Gomez, the Texas A&M Forest Service regional forest health coordinator, said, “The pest is a major threat to urban, suburban, and rural forests as it aggressively kills ash trees within two to three years after infestation.”
The emerald ash borer first arrived in the United States in 2002. Since then, the pest has spread to 35 states and killed millions of trees. It was not confirmed in Texas until 2016 and was found only in Harrison County then.
Gomez stated that the speed at which the beetles spread contributes to how devastating they can be. “The rapid spread of EAB will be detrimental to our ash tree population, potentially killing millions of trees as it spreads across Texas,” he said in the news release. “The devastation of our ash tree population will have an economic impact of billions of dollars, alter forest structure and composition, and negatively affect the animal communities that rely on the tree species to survive.”
Since 2016, EAB cases have been confirmed in Dallas, Denton, Morris, Rusk, Marion, Parker, Cass, Tarrant, and Bowie counties. Beetles resembling EABs were found in Rusk and Morris counties, and samples were sent to the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service lab, according to Texas A&M.
After the beetles were confirmed, both counties were put under Texas Department of Agriculture quarantines. These quarantines were created to slow the spread of these insects.
“Because EAB is transported unintentionally on firewood and wood products, the quarantine helps slow the beetle’s spread by restricting the movement of wood in and out of affected areas,” Gomez explained in the news release.
Emerald ash borers are detected and monitored through traps distributed by the Texas A&M Forest Service. The traps are set up from late winter to early summer each year, as the beetles only fly between April and June.
“Early detection of the beetle is the best way to stop the spread and avoid high ash mortality. This year, we deployed 500 traps across Central, East, and North Texas, with 45 of them collecting EAB,” Gomez said in the press release.
“As EAB spreads to new areas in Texas, it is important to recognize early signs and symptoms of attacked trees,” Gomez warned. Texans can detect EAB in their own trees by knowing what symptoms to look for, he said.
Symptoms of EAB in ash trees include extensive woodpecker activity, dead branches at the top of the tree, and leafy shoots growing out of the trunk. The Texas A&M Forest Service offers resources and guides for how communities or individuals can identify and address EAB infestations.