Emerald ash borer confirmed in the backcountry of the Smokies

Emerald ash borer confirmed in the backcountry of the Smokies

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Tunnels in ash wood caused by emerald ash borer larvae. (Source: National Park Service) Tunnels in ash wood caused by emerald ash borer larvae. (Source: National Park Service)
The emerald ash borer. The emerald ash borer.

GATLINBURG (WATE) - Park resource managers in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park have confirmed the presence of the emerald ash borer in the backcountry of the park for the first time.

The emerald ash borer is an invasive species of beetle that lays eggs on the bark of ash trees. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae burrow under the bark of the trees, killing them.

On Nov. 8, an off-duty park employee discovered the backcountry infestation on Injun Creek Trail in the Greenbrier area after noticing a pile of bark chips at the base of several ash trees.

Signs of woodpecker activity on ash trees are an excellent indicator of an infestation. 

Paul Merten, a forest insect specialist from Asheville, later confirmed it to be the emerald ash borer.

"The infestation is well established, probably two years old or older," Merten said in a news release.

Park managers in the Smokies have been monitoring for the presence of the emerald ash borer since 2009.

The emerald ash borer was confirmed in the park near the Sugarlands Visitor Center and at the Greenbrier entrance to the park in June.

The insects were initially brought to the United States from Asia and were first discovered in southeast Michigan in 2002.

Since then, the bug has spread to 16 states and two Canadian provinces and has killed tens of millions of ash trees.

Complete eradication of the insect is not currently possible, but park managers in the Smokies are developing a management plan to maintain public safety and protect ash trees where possible.

The emerald ash borer and other tree pests can be transported in firewood.

Park regulations prohibit bringing firewood to the Smokies from areas that have been quarantined for the emerald ash borer or other destructive pests.

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