The only thing to do is wait.
State entomologists fear a metallic-green pest known as the emerald ash borer beetle is in Tarrant County, threatening ash trees locally and across the state.
But the photo they saw of the beetle — taken by a 10-year-old at his family’s home near Lake Worth and Eagle Mountain Lake — was posted last year on an online nature social network, iNaturalist.org. Researchers don’t know if it infected local trees — or died out.
“Right now, we are in a holding pattern,” said Allen Smith, the regional forest health coordinator for the Texas A&M Forest Service.
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The photo must have slipped through the cracks, but when researchers saw it last week, they quickly determined it likely was the emerald ash borer.
So this winter, they’ll cut down small, sickly ash trees to see if beetle larvae is in the trees.
And they’ll set traps next spring to see if any adult beetles are around.
Smith said he doesn’t want people to panic, but if the emerald ash borer beetle is in Tarrant County, it could easily spread an infestation that could kill millions of ash trees.
“This insect nationwide has killed hundreds of millions of ash trees,” Smith said. “Since it was found in Michigan in 2002, it has marched through 33 different states and into Canada. Where it gets started, it kills almost all the ash trees.”
Investigators did find dead ash trees near where the beetle was initially found.
But they can’t say for sure if the deadly beetle killed them.
“Since positive identification of (the beetle) cannot be confirmed by a photograph alone, the current investigation in Tarrant County is to locate an adult or larval specimen of the insect,” according to a press release sent out by the Texas A&M Forest Service. “Survey traps close to the area of concern were checked but no (beetles) were found.”
Wood boring pest
The borer, native to Asia, is about a half-inch long. Larvae feed on the layer of wood under the bark, which cuts off water and nutrients to the tree.
In Texas, this deadly pest was first found in Harrison County in 2016.
The Texas A&M Forest Service set out about 450 traps geared to catch adult emerald ash borer beetles in other parts of the state earlier this year. So far, these beetles were caught in some traps in Marion and Cass counties, but no infestations were reported.
Officials have long predicted that once this infestation was found in Texas, it would migrate to urban areas in and around Fort Worth and Dallas.
“With EAB, it’s not if, but when devastation of the state’s ash trees will occur,” said Courtney Blevins, an urban forester. “We can’t stop this epidemic, but we can help communities minimize loss, diversify their tree species and contribute to the health and resiliency of their urban forests.”
▪ Watch your ash trees for possible signs of infestation.
▪ Symptoms could include dead branches at the top of a tree, splits in bark that show “larval galleries,” excessive woodpecker activity, “D” shaped exit holes in the bark and leafy shoots growing out of the trunk.
▪ Entomologists note any impacted trees that are taken down and cut up for firewood should not be transported because the beetles can stay alive in a tree for up to two years after it is cut down.
“What we don’t want to do is cause a panic and have people to start to take unnecessary steps,” Smith said. “There are steps people can take to protect their trees, such as injecting chemicals, that can be fairly pricey. But data shows you don’t need to start treating for this insect unless it’s within 10 miles of your house.”
He recommends people check their ash trees. If anyone sees signs of concern, officials ask them to call 866-322-4512.