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Invasive Beetles Have Killed East Texas Ash Trees For Years, But Now They're Spreading

Katja Schulz/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
The larvae of the emerald ash borer eats its way through Texas ash trees.

From Texas Standard:

An invasive species of beetle, the emerald ash borer, has spread to Denton and Bowie Counties for the first time.

The small, metallic-green insect lays its eggs in ash trees and its larvae bore through layers of bark.

“The tree is no longer able to feed or water itself, and the trees die fairly rapidly, usually within about three years after first being infested by their very first larvae,” Allen Smith, from the Texas A&M Forest Service, told Texas Standard host David Brown.

Entomologists like Smith first identified the beetle in Texas in 2016, and put out about 500 monitoring traps in counties across the state.

Smith said the infestation in East Texas is most likely an offshoot of one that started in Louisiana.

“They move on their own by flying by wind dispersal and all that, but they can jump counties thousands of miles [away] when people load firewood on their truck or their RV and take it to a campground somewhere,” he explained.

The forest service can deal with emerald ash borers in different ways – with injections of insecticides or removal of unwanted trees. But the species’ spread is likely best contained by limiting the transport of infested firewood.

East Texas forests comprise many other tree species besides ash. But Smith worries that the damaged trees could be a hazard to people.

“What we are really concerned about is the liability that a city might incur when they have an active infestation,” Smith said. “Putting people that are recreationing, driving down the street, at risk where known damaged, dying, dead trees could fall on them.”

But he said there has not yet been such an incident.

Web story by Sarah Gabrielli.

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