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Emerald ash borer invades, attacks Halifax County trees

It’s a lean mean destroying machine, and it’s made its way into Halifax County.

The emerald ash borer, a very destructive beetle, is metallic green in color and measures a half-inch long and one-eighth of an inch wide. 

The average adult beetle can fit easily on a penny, but area land owners need to watch out because the Virginia Cooperative Extension warns these slendered body creatures have invaded Halifax County and are now threatening local ash trees.

According to local Extension Agent Jason Fisher, the emerald ash borer made its way from Michigan to Virginia in 2003, but it originated in Asia. 

It is believed they were brought to Virginia through firewood and nursery stock movement, Fisher said.

The emerald ash borer is a threat to ash trees, many of which grow along the Dan River. The green ash, curry leaf, white ash, blue ash, and black ash are trees endangered by the presence of the borer.

 Fisher said the emerald ash borer has been found up to eight miles upstream from Buggs Island.

 According to a pest alert issued by the United Sates Department of Agriculture Forestry service, it is difficult to detect a borer infestation in newly infested trees because they exhibit few if any external symptoms. 

Jagged holes excavated by woodpeckers feeding on late instar or prepupal larvae may be the first sign that a tree is infested. 

D-shaped exit holes left by emerging adult borers may be seen on the branches or the trunk, especially on trees with smooth bark. Bark may split vertically over larval feeding galleries. 

When the bark is removed from infested trees, the distinct, frass-filled larval galleries etch the outer sapwood and phloem and are readily visible. 

An elliptical area of discolored sapwood, usually a result of secondary infection by fungal pathogens, sometimes surround the galleries.

As borer densities build, foliage wilts, branches die, and canopy becomes increasingly thin.  Many trees appear to loose 30 to 50 percent of canopy after only a few years of infestation. 

Trees may die after three to four years of heavy infestation. 

Epicormic shoots may arise on the trunk or branches of the tree often at the margin of live or dead tissue. Dense root sprouting sometimes occurs after trees die.

Once infested the tree cannot be saved, Fisher said. 

Yard trees and historical sites can be treated in late March with imidocloprid as a soil drench to prevent ash tree infestations, the agent explained. However it’s not economic for forestland, and landowners can only conduct a salvage cutting before borers attack.

Fisher encouraged area residents to take these precautions to prevent further infestation by the destructive beetle:

• Don’t move firewood. EAB larvae can survive hidden in the bark of firewood. Remember: buy local, burn local.

• Inspect your trees. If you see any sign or symptom of an emerald ash borer infestation, contact local extension office or Virginia Department of Forestry.

• Ask questions if you receive ash nursery stock or firewood, know its point of origin and your supplier as larvae could be hiding under the bark.

Know state and federal regulations and make sure you understand regulations that govern your state and those you may visit.

Know the quarantines in your area and learn to leave hungry pests behind.

Fisher reminds campers to leave firewood at home and purchase firewood at the campground from local sources too.