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Invasive beetle spreads to ash trees in 76 NC counties

The emerald ash borer, an invasive beetle that destroys ash trees, has now been detected in 76 North Carolina counties.
Brian Sullivan
/
USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org
The emerald ash borer, an invasive beetle that destroys ash trees, has now been detected in 76 North Carolina counties.

The North Carolina Forest Service says an invasive beetle that destroys ash trees continues to spread across the state.

The agency said it recently found the emerald ash borer in five more counties in eastern North Carolina, bringing the total number of infected counties to 76. They include Bertie, Duplin, Sampson, Martin and Anson counties.

The metallic green beetle was first found in the state in 2013. It lays its eggs in the bark of ash trees and slowly kills them over about three years.

"The larva is a grub, essentially, that is underneath the bark of the tree. And the larva, as it eats, it basically cuts off the supply of nutrients and water to the tree and that is what kills it," said Jim Moeller, a forest health specialist with the North Carolina Forest Service.

The emerald ash borer can fly, but the species often spreads by transporting wood products.

"The insect itself is not a great flyer, so it's not covering a large amount of distance on its own. We as humans are definitely helping its spread, so that could be from anything through firewood or packing materials, things like that," Moeller said.

Moeller said the best way to mitigate its spread is to buy and use firewood locally.

Will Michaels is WUNC's Weekend Host and Reporter.