CLEMSON — The Department of Plant Industry (DPI) at Clemson University will hold a public hearing Friday, Sept. 29, regarding an emergency statewide quarantine for wood and wood products affected by the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), an invasive insect pest that inhabits and destroys native ash trees.
The public hearing will be held at 10 a.m. at the Center for Applied Technology, 511 Westinghouse Road in Pendleton.
The intended quarantine would cover all 46 counties. DPI would work with other states and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to regulate the movement of wood and wood products that serve as hosts to the small, metallic green, wood-boring beetle.
Officials are asking for the public’s help in limiting the movement of firewood even within the state to help limit the insect’s spread.
“Essentially, we’re asking that people ‘burn it where you buy it’ when making campfires,” said Steven Long, assistant director of the department, a state regulatory agency based in Clemson’s Public Service and Agriculture unit. “Carrying firewood from one place to another is one of the primary ways that this insect and other pests can travel and infest new areas.”
USDA detection traps revealed the insect in Spartanburg, Greenville and Oconee counties earlier this month. Currently 753 EAB purple traps are deployed across the state. This is the first time the beetle, native to Asia, has been discovered in South Carolina.
Since EAB was first discovered in North America near Detroit, Michigan, in 2002 the pest has spread to 31 states as well as parts of Canada. It was detected in neighboring North Carolina and Georgia in 2013.
Long said the traps don’t always reflect the insect’s first arrival. “EAB could be in an area for up to five years before it’s caught and discovered and we suspect there are other counties in South Carolina that fit this assumption,” he said.
“The decision to implement the quarantine statewide was based on many things, including the desire to enable South Carolina ash industries to continue to function in-state while continuing our ability to protect other states, which drew support from major stakeholders, including the forest industry, South Carolina Forestry Commission, the Foresters Council of South Carolina and the Appalachian Society of American Foresters’ South Carolina Division,” Long said.
White ash trees, the variety found in Upstate South Carolina, is known for its strength. It historically has been prized for making tools and tool handles. About half the nation’s famous Louisville Slugger baseball bats are made from white ash.
Carolina Ash, green ash and pumpkin ash, which also thrive in parts of the Palmetto State, are targeted by EAB as well, said Don Hagan, a Clemson assistant professor of forestry and environmental conservation.
Research shows the white fringetree, a popular ornamental tree in the same family as the ash tree, is also at risk, he said.
Emerald Ash Borer is a member of the Buprestid family of insects, sometimes called jewel beetles for their iridescent metallic green color. EAB larvae feed on the inner bark of ash trees, blocking the trees’ ability to carry water and nutrients throughout their trunks and branches. They are responsible for the death or decline of hundreds of millions of ash trees since they arrived in North America.
“The quarantine does not mean we are giving up on fighting EAB in South Carolina,” Long said, noting the support DPI has received from State Entomologist Tim Drake. “DPI will be implementing an ongoing survey in the next few days to continue to document the pest’s movement through the state, and agents of the Clemson Extension service will be able to provide treatment strategies.”
South Carolina will be added to a federal quarantine restricting the interstate shipment of all ash wood and wood products and all hardwood firewood. The EAB program is a cooperative effort between Clemson University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which will issue permits and compliance agreements related to movement of regulated articles for the EAB quarantine.
More information on EAB can be found on the Department of Plant Industry website at www.clemson.edu/public/eab_faq.
Tom Hallman works in Public Service and Agriculture; College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences, at Clemson University.