CLEMSON — An invasive Asian beetle responsible for killing hundreds of millions of ash trees in North America has been found in Spartanburg, Greenville and Oconee counties, according to investigators with the Clemson University Department of Plant Industry.

Emerald AsH Borer on leaf.

Emerald Ash Borer
Image Credit: USDA

This is the first confirmed detection of the beetle known as Emerald Ash Borer, or Agrilus planipennis, in South Carolina. The beetles were found Aug. 3 during a scheduled routine check of Emerald Ash Borer traps in the Upstate and confirmed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Since Emerald Ash Borer is known to fly from March to November, it is very likely that we will discover more during the end-of-year trap checks and may very well discover it in additional counties,” said Steven Long, assistant director of Clemson’s Department of Plant Industry.

Long said the State Crop Pest Commission likely will quarantine the movement of ash wood in the three counties or the quarantine could be expanded to the entire state.

“We are working with cooperating South Carolina agencies and seeking the opinions of neighboring states already quarantined for Emerald Ash Borer to determine what is best for our landscape and ash wood industries while factoring in feasibility and effectiveness of enforcing a quarantine. Ultimately, the purpose of a quarantine is to slow or stop the movement of a pest through an area by restricting movement of regulated articles, such as ash wood in this case,” Long said.

Purple ash borer trap on tree

There are 757 Emerald Ash Borer traps in South Carolina.

The Clemson Department of Plant Industry works closely with the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to monitor for Emerald Ash Borer through visual surveys of ash trees both in the nursery industry and in the wild. Agriculture officials have set traps in South Carolina for more than a decade to keep watch for the insect. There were 757 total traps throughout the state of South Carolina in 2017.

According to the Emerald Ash Borer Information Network, the beetle is believed to have originally arrived in the United States on wood packing material carried on import goods from Asia. It was first detected near Detroit in 2002 and has been spreading ever since. South Carolina is the 31st  state with confirmed Emerald Ash Borers. The beetle was detected in North Carolina and Georgia in 2013.

The Emerald Ash Borer is also sometimes called jewel beetle for its metallic green iridescence. While adult beetles cause little damage, the larvae feed on the inner bark of ash trees, impeding the trees’ ability to transport water and nutrients they need for survival.

Emerald Ash Borer larva in ash tree.

Emerald Ash Borer larva in ash tree.
Image Credit: USDA

“In the Upstate we have two species of ash — green ash and white ash — that are the same as ash trees impacted by Emerald Ash Borer in other states,” said Don Hagan, a Clemson assistant professor of forestry and environmental conservation. “In most Upstate hardwood forests, ashes are a relatively minor component and not nearly as common as oaks, hickories and other species. Toward the coast, two additional species called pumpkin ash and Carolina ash are also susceptible.”

Hagan said recent research shows that the beetle might also impact the white fringetree, which is in the same family as the ash tree.

“Fringetree occurs sporadically in South Carolina and is popular as an ornamental due to its attractive flowers. States farther north where ashes are more prevalent have been heavily impacted by Emerald Ash Borer. It remains to be seen how quickly it will spread and what the impacts will be in South Carolina,” Hagan said.

People who detect Emerald Ash Borer are asked to contact Clemson’s Department of Plant Industry at 864-646-2135 or plantindustry@clemson.edu.

END