The Georgia Forestry Commission is launching a major offensive against two destructive pests that have the potential to decimate significant portions of our state's healthy forestland.
Custom traps are being hung throughout the state to detect and respond to possible incoming infestations of emerald ash borers and gypsy moths.
"Emerald ash borers have been found as close as 55 miles from the north Georgia border in Tennessee," said Chip Bates, forest health coordinator with the Georgia Forestry Commission.
"Since the late 1990s, these tiny insects have been spreading through 15 states from Michigan southeastward and they've caused tree mortality in the billions of dollars. They are a serious threat to Georgia's beautiful forests."
The Georgia Forestry Commission is working with several partners to hang some 800 special, purple traps statewide to aid in early detection and rapid response to any emerald ash borer activity. The cooperative effort includes the Georgia Department of Agriculture, the University of Georgia's Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, Trees Atlanta and U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal Plant Health Inspection Service.
The small, green insects are drawn to the traps because they contain a beetle pheromone and an ash tree scent.
Emerald ash borers are capable of killing an ash tree in as few as two years and they are transported primarily by humans, who inadvertently move them on firewood or on vehicles. For this reason, Bates said traps are being positioned near major transportation corridors, including Interstates 75, 85 and 95.
They are also being hung in state and federal parks, campgrounds and metro Atlanta, among other locations statewide.
Special, smaller traps are also being hung to capture gypsy moths, another destructive pest that targets hardwood trees, especially oaks.
During epidemic population levels, entire forests can be stripped of their leaves, and several years of defoliation can lead to tree mortality.
Trees stressed by environmental factors such as drought can be particularly hard hit by defoliation.
Past outbreaks in White, Fannin and Rockdale counties were successfully eradicated and while there are no known infestations currently in Georgia, the threat is always present.
"The impact of emerald ash borer or gypsy moth infestations would be felt by everyone in Georgia," said Bates. "Homeowners, timber growers and wildlife managers would not only face huge expenses for removing diseased trees, but the visual fallout can be truly shocking.
“We can all help by never transporting firewood from the wood's origin and by washing down any vehicle that's traveling from a potentially infested area.
" Information about the emerald ash borer and gypsy moth, including photographs and detailed detection information, can be found at http://www.gatrees.org or your local office of the Georgia Forestry Commission.