The Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC) has launched a major offensive to detect and respond to the possible incoming infestations of gypsy moths and emerald ash borers.
“Small green custom traps are being hung one mile apart close to roads to speed up the process of capturing the gypsy moth to determine if there is any local infestation,” said Tracy Mobley, Polk County Unit, GFC.
According to forestry officials, the gypsy moth has been located south of Knoxville, Tenn. or about 100 miles from the Georgia border.
During epidemic population levels, entire forests can be stripped of their leaves, and several years of defoliation can lead to tree mortality.
This pest destroys oaks by eating the leaves and can kill the tree within a few years.
“It can be as devastating to oaks as the Southern pine beetles are to pines,” Mobley said.
Emerald ash borers have been found as close as 55 miles from the north Georgia border in Tennessee, according to Chip Bates, forest health coordinator with the Georgia Forestry Commission.
“Since the late 1990’s, these tiny insects have been spreading through 15 states from Michigan southeastward and they’ve caused tree mortality in the billions of dollars,” he said. GFC 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.
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.
Officials note that this pest could become a major problem by stopping the movement of timber from the county where discovered, which could affect logging operations.
Once trapped and a location is determined, the information will be logged into a database, according to Mobley.
Facts about the emerald ash borer and gypsy moth, including photographs and detailed detection information, can be found at gatrees.org or your local office of the Georgia Forestry Commission.