Researchers have confirmed that a deadly beetle known to wipe out tree populations in some areas has been found in Tarrant County.
A young boy recently saw the metallic green pest and wondered if it could be the exotic Emerald Ash Borer, known to kill millions of ash trees across the country.
Officials with the Texas A&M Forest Service, who inspected local trees after the boy’s discovery, confirmed that the beetle is the same one known to wipe out just about every ash tree in its path.
“There is no known stop to this epidemic,” Texas A&M Forest Service Urban Forester Courtney Blevins said in a statement. “But we can help communities minimize loss, diversify their tree species and contribute to the health and resiliency of their urban forests.”
This situation came to light when the boy — Sam Hunt, a 10-year-old who lives in the Eagle Mountain Lake area — took a photo of the insect and posted it on an online nature social network known as iNaturalist.org.
When researchers saw it earlier this year, they quickly headed to Tarrant County. Once here, they began checking on ash trees and setting traps to determine if the deadly beetle was indeed here.
They moved quickly because this pest “nationwide has killed hundreds of millions of ash trees,” Allan Smith, the regional forest health coordinator for the Texas A&M Forest Service, has 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.”
Emerald ash borer beetle
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.
The deadly pest now can be found in nearly three dozens states, according to the Emerald Ash Borer Information Network.
In Texas, it was first found in Harrison County in 2016.
Texas A&M Forest Service workers say they can help impacted property owners and communities identify signs of the emerald ash borer and tell what can be done if ash trees become infected.
“The agency will work with communities on any future state and federal quarantines of the movement of wood into and out of the area,” according to a statement.
Meanwhile, officials Wednesday night planned to honor the boy who found the bug that alerted them to the fact that there could be a problem here by naming him a junior forester.
Ash tree tips
Researchers ask homeowners to watch their ash trees for any possible infestations.
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.
Anyone who thinks they may have found an emerald ash borer should call 1-866-322-4512.