A beetle known as the Emerald Ash Borer has killed hundreds of ash trees at two land preserves in Lincoln County. The beetles have been in North Carolina since 2013 and are spreading across the state.
The invasive insect - it's originally from Asia - has been detected in 22 counties, including Catawba and Iredell, and now Lincoln.
The Catawba Lands Conservancy says the beetle has killed most of the ash trees at its Sally’s Y and Catawba Springs preserves in Denver.
Conservancy biologist Sean Bloom said the bugs are hard to spot.
"The emerald ash borer is actually a small beetle, about the size of a penny, and as the name indicates, it's fluorescent emerald green, very easy to identify," Bloom said. "They generally start up in the tops of trees. So by the time we see them at the ground level, they've already worked their way down a tree and have probably killed it."
Signs of ash borers include thinning of leaves beginning at the top, and loss of leaves. State agricultural officials say increased woodpecker activity is another sign.
You might also see small holes in the tree trunk, Bloom said.
The beetles attack several types of ash trees in the state. They've killed or damaged tens of millions of trees nationwide, since their discovery in Michigan in 2002.
"The conservancy is concerned because ash trees are a vital part of our preserves," said Sharon Wilson, the conservancy's stewardship director. "They are a species that's pretty common and they're part of the water quality protection link that we have. A forested area is a great buffer for a creek or stream."
While it's difficult to protect an entire forest, Wilson says homeowners and park managers can save individual trees by treating them with insecticides.
In 2013, state agriculture officials announced a quarantine in certain counties to prevent the beetle’s spread. They banned ash trees, firewood, wood chips and lumber from entering or leaving quarantined areas. Last September, the quarantine was expanded to all 100 counties, prohibiting ash trees and products from entering or leaving the state.
Aug. 3, 2016, CatawbaLands.org, “Emerald ash borer confirmed at CLC preserves in Lincoln County.”
Aug. 3, 2016, NPR.org, "A Beetle May Soon Strike Out Baseball's Famous Ash Bats."